Tuesday May 24, 2022

AGP report lists Monal Restaurant, Navy Club among 79 encroachments

January 13, 2022
AGP report lists Monal Restaurant, Navy Club among 79 encroachments

ISLAMABAD: The Monal Restaurant and the Navy Club are amongst the total 79 encroachments identified by the auditor general of Pakistan that exist in the jurisdiction of the Margalla Hills National Park.

On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the Islamabad chief commissioner and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to seal the Monal Restaurant immediately and take over the Navy’s Golf Course.

Malik Amin Aslam, advisor to Prime Minister on Climate, when reached by The News said the IHC decision on the Monal Restaurant and the Navy Club is a landmark decision to uphold the ecological sanctity of the Margalla Hills National Park. He revealed that a survey of all encroachments has already been done by a committee constituted by the Ministry of Climate Change and a report was submitted to the IHC following its decision.

A well-placed source in the Islamabad administration told The News that the subject of Margalla Hills is very complex as all government bodies such as CDA, Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI), Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), etc claim the area under their control. A senior official from CDA on condition of anonymity told this correspondent that the MCI had granted licences to the encroachers on the Margalla Hills without the CDA approval. “If an area of F-10 is encroached, the MCI takes action against the encroachers. Why they are reluctant to do the same job in the Margalla Hills?” the CDA official said.

However, Malik Amin Aslam assured that the demarcation within the Margalla Hills National Park which will be done jointly by Survey of Pakistan, CDA and IWMB will diminish the dispute among the local bodies of Islamabad.

The auditor general of Pakistan, in its 2019 report, had pointed out 79 illegal encroachments including four ‘major’ restaurants in the jurisdiction of the Margalla National Park Islamabad. An objection to the administration of the federal capital was also raised. The report said that the measures to control grazing such as construction of cattle-proof trenches or fencing in the national park were not being undertaken by the authorities.

The AGP, in its report, concluded that the anomaly is that the ‘authorized officer’ for implementing the law is the Horticulture Department of the CDA, which no longer exists, and its successive body is the Directorate of Regional Environment of MCI. The report mentioned the IWMB stating that it failed to control encroachments that was its basic function.

As per a notification of the CDA mentioned in the audit report, areas such as Margalla Reserve Forest, Military Grass Farm, Lands falling in adjacent villages and a two-kilometre area from the highest water mark of Rawal Lake are considered part of the Margalla National Park. It was observed in the report that the demarcation of the boundaries of these places included in the National Park was not done.

“The audit holds that the non-demarcation of the boundary of the National Park was a serious lapse on the part of the management. In the absence of boundary demarcation, it was impossible for the department to identify its jurisdiction,” said the report.

In a comment on the Margalla Greens Golf Club, the chief justice said that the Pakistan Navy encroached on the national park’s land to build a golf course. About the Margalla Hills Park, the court said the land belonged to the state. “It is a protected area and there can be no activity in it. No one can even cut grass in the national park area,” the IHC CJ said.