Islamabad has one thing that only a few capitals can boast about. Right at its doorstep lies one of the most beautiful and and intriguing site of natural beauty – the Margalla Hills. Back in 1980, nearly 16000hc of forest became protected as the ‘Margalla Hills National Park’. The park’s high peaks capture precious rainfall and the dense undergrowth provides a sanctuary for a dazzling variety of wild life. An extension of the Margalla Hills is the Rawal Lake that provides the capital with fresh water and has become an important wildlife refuge.
The Margalla Hills is a home to numerous species of birds and animals like wild boars, fruit bats, porcupine, pangolin, civets, hares, foxes, leopard cats and barking deer. They shelter many stunning yet rare wild life species like Khalij pheasants and the beautiful blue-winged pitta but rhesus macaques tend to steal the show.
The National Park receives a fair amount of monsoon rains that moisten the otherwise arid region, springing a vast array of flora and fauna to life. There are over 30 species of reptile, 250 species of bird and 55 different species of butterfly. This mix of species, seeking shelter from winter cold and summer heat, make the National Park a hotspot of biodiversity. During autumn, more than 100 bird species arrive from Northern latitudes to join the 82 species of resident bird in the park.
Not only is the park a safe haven for birds and animals; people too turn to Margalla Hills for a breath of fresh air. The hills are at a 10 minutes drive from Central Islamabad, drawing city dwellers to its cooler air and peaceful atmosphere. The park has well-marked hiking tracks for visitors, birdwatchers and nature lovers but sadly, areas accessible to people are under increased pressure.
Unfortunately, so many people visit the park that at times it gets difficult to find peace and tranquility. Rubbish left unpicked is a rampant problem. The busy, zigzag roads across the park, city developments, quarrying and an increasing number of restaurants pose big challenges, reducing the park’s value as a wildlife corridor.
The park is also hampered by deforestation and soil erosion, as it is an abode of over 100,000 local people, who have put a squeeze on the park’s resources. They cut dry wood for fire, as everyday modern facilities are hard to reach deep in the woods where their scattered villages are situated.
The only possible way for the wildlife and humans to exist together is to strike a balance between preserving the natural resources of the park and the construction of facilities.
Involving the residential communities and educating their future generations about the importance of nature, ecosystems and biodiversity can play an important role in conserving the
National Park. It is our collective responsibility to take care of our country’s natural resources so we can save our planet from the adverse affects of fast-approaching climate change.