The recent directive by a parliamentary committee to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to immediately cease the construction of a road through Margalla Hills National Park that links the capital to Haripur Park is a watershed moment for environmental conservation in Pakistan. This decision comes as a much-needed relief, indicating a progressive approach towards environmental conservation. Furthermore, the active involvement of Climate Minister Sherry Rehman in bringing attention to this issue is commendable, emphasising the importance of protecting our fragile ecosystems.
While the outgoing government has faced criticism for its overall performance, the realm of climate change has witnessed some positive strides. The recent implementation of the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), a meticulously designed blueprint formulated through extensive consultations, demonstrates a dedicated effort to bolster Pakistan’s resilience against climate challenges. Moreover, the successful advocacy efforts during the last Conference of the Parties (COP) demonstrate our nation’s commitment to international climate initiatives.
Unfortunately, the construction of the road through Margalla Hills National Park without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) exemplifies the detrimental approach adopted by the CDA in urban planning. Such a disregard for environmental evaluations undermines the ecological integrity of our protected areas. It highlights the urgent need to reform the CDA’s urban planning methodology, ensuring that future projects align with sustainable development principles while safeguarding our natural resources.
The parliamentary committee’s recommendation to halt this unlawful construction echoes a larger concern regarding the CDA’s history of inappropriate behaviour. Beyond this specific project, the CDA’s notorious conduct encompasses instances of harassment against street vendors, demolition of settlements belonging to the working-class poor, and a concerning blindness towards influential stakeholders, such as the real estate sector.
To address these pressing issues, stability and clarity in the demarcation of the National Park Boundary must be established to prevent further encroachments. The collaboration between government entities, local communities, and environmental experts is crucial in formulating effective solutions that balance urban development with biodiversity conservation. Only by addressing these underlying issues can we truly protect our natural landscapes for the benefit of both present and future generations.