ISLAMABAD - Until recently the inhabitants of a small but scenic village, Sangara, where livestock had been the only mean of earning bread. But now the small village is fast turning into one of the major tourist resorts cum investment spot in Margalla Hills.

Located at a distance of 20-km from Muraghzar Zoo in the federal capital, Sangara, named after a plant literally meaning water caltrop, in Haripur district, is rapidly developing into a tourist resort where private investors have imposed their own regulations though the area falls in the jurisdiction of the KP government.

With Pir Sohawa having over 3000 feet elevation and currently a favourite tourist destination for tourists in the twin cities, the newly built restaurants in Sangara at 4500 feet elevation has become another attraction for visitors.

While the existing tourist resorts in Islamabad including Dama-e-Koh and Monal offer no accommodation facility, hotel industry in Sangara is rapidly becoming a thriving industry with land values matching the prices of land prevailed in posh sectors of the capital.

A visit to the area revealed that investors have been cashing in on the lush green landscape of Margalla where they have applied their own building codes attracting real estate tycoons from across the country to purchase residential flats in a newly built resort called Highland Country Club amid the whispering pines.

The thriving business in the lush Margalla has triggered land prices to jump up manifold suddenly luring the simple villagers to sell their land on exorbitant prices.

A studio apartment in Sangara costs Rs4 million although until recently, the place was so deserted that the villagers would visit the place for tending their sheep only.

"Soon the place will become one of the hottest spots in proximity of Islamabad for being calm and safe. You see that Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region (SAFRON) and his guests are having lunch at the newly-built Highland country club," Jibran, caretaker of Highland Country Club, a hilltop spot housing restaurant and residential apartments, told this reporter.

Said Amin, 45, a shepherd in the locality, has opened a property office outside his house on Pir Sohawa Road offering the extra land outside his home for sale demanding Rs2 million for a four-marla land mass. "Foreigners and local tourists throng the area on holidays and stay in apartments built by investors. I know the worth of my land and it will earn me big money in near future," the shepherd said.

According to reports, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) also plans to dole out a big portion of Margalla Hills National Park area to tourism amid criticism from environmentalists who argue the hills will lose its flora and fauna due to rapid industrialization.

The mushroom development of resort places, according to officials, have made the hills vulnerable to forest fire due to influx of people as the hills have been bedeviled by the menace.

Recently, the KP government and CDA have joined hands to launch joint patrolling teams to save Margalla from catching fire. However, according to official sources the 'mysterious fire' continues to engulf the forest to what they said was the rapid industrialization in the lush green valley.