ABBOTTABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department and the Galiyat Development Authority (GDA) have locked horns over reinstallation of Ayubia chair lift.
The Wildlife Department claimed that 60 kanal land of the Ayubia National Park had been included in the project, which was in violation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity Act 2015 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Ordinance 2002.
The GDA on the other hand claimed that they were launching the chair lift project on the same track, where the old chair lift had been functioning since 1963.
In a letter addressed to the director general GDA dated 26.08.2021 (copy available with The News), the Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Division Abbottabad stated that Sub-Divisional Forest Officer Ayubia National Park reported that GDA had leased out an area of 110 kanal land to a group for 40 years.
He claimed that the leased out land included more than 60 kanal land that belonged to the Ayubia National Park, which was against the rules.
The DFO said the national park was established to protect and preserve the flora and fauna and biological diversity. He said the construction of the high-rise buildings as proposed in the master plan of the project would have a negative impact on the environment.
When contacted, Sub-Divisional Wildlife Officer Ayubia National Park Sardar Nawaz told this correspondent that staff of Ayubia National Park had barred the workers of the group from construction. He said that after visiting the site, it was found that 60 kanal land of the forested area of Ayubia National Park was being used in the project.
He said the GDA had no authority to lease out the land of the national park. The official maintained the international laws also protected national parks and no-one had the right to de-notify them.
To a question, he said the GDA did not reply to their letter, adding that no environmental impact assessment was carried out.
On being contacted, Director General GDA Raza Habib said the bidding process for the chair lift reinstallation was held in a transparent manner. He said the GDA would clarify the situation after reopening its office, which was closed after eight officials contracted Covid-19 infection.
He said the entire land of the project belonged to the GDA. “We have documentary evidence,” he claimed. When reached for comments, GDA spokesman Ahsan Hameed claimed that they were constructing the chairlift on the same 106 kanal land where the GDA had been running the chair lift for a long time.
Meanwhile, Galiyat Tahafuz Movement, a community-based organisation working for protection of the environment, expressed concern over the lease agreement for the chair lift project in Ayubia.
Galiyat Tahafuz Movement Chairman Sardar Sabir said Galiyat was developed to promote eco-tourism and adventure tourism where commercial tourism had no place. He said the project would disturb nature and affect the environment.
He claimed that under the lease agreement the GDA had authorised the contractor to cut trees. He believed the project would not benefit the people of Galiyat and they would resist it.