More than 100 university students, volunteers and nature lovers participated in the hiking and cleanup drive of the Margalla Hills Trail-5 on Sunday despite inclement weather.

From the winding paths of Trail-5, they picked trash, including empty bottles, used shopping bags, juice cans and tissue paper.

The hiking-cum-cleanliness expedition was organised by a local non-government organisation (NGO) Development Communications network (Devcom-Pakistan) in connection with its ongoing 11th Pakistan Mountain Festival (PMF).

The PMF is the annual flagship event to commemorate the UN’s International Mountain Day (IMD).

The event was organised in collaboration with the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWNB), a subordinate organisation of the Ministry of Climate Change and other institutes.

Before hiking and cleanup, the IWMB Assistant Director Sakhawat Ali briefed the participants about the biological diversity and natural heritage of the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).

World’s 3rd largest national park

Established in 1980, the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) is the world’s third largest national park with an area of 17,386 hectares (42,960 acres), he said.

Margalla Hills Pakistan
Nature lovers participate in a hiking and cleanup drive in Pakistan’s Margalla Hills. Image Credit: Supplied

At the foothills of the Himalayas, it has a number of peaks including Tilla Charouni (1604m) the highest peak of the MHNP, he said, adding the park was rich in biodiversity, especially rich in Sino-Himalayan fauna, most notably gray goral, barking deer and the leopard. Combined MHNP is home to around 600 plant species, 402 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 27 species of reptiles.

According to IWMB official, the board has recently taken many steps for the protection of the park and the visitors. These include prompt response in case of fire over Margalla Hills. We have prevented a number of tree-chopping incidents and forest fires, besides, the renovated IWMB nature education centre is also something we take pride in regarding its awareness raising sessions.

Sirbaz Khan calls for action against timber mafia

Young mountaineer Sirbaz Khan, the first Pakistani to climb 9 of the world’s highest 14 peaks — each of which has a height of more than 8,000 metres — appreciated the nature-friendly initiative of cleaning the Margalla Hills. People of Islamabad are lucky as they have such a huge treasure of nature in the shape of the Margalla Hills.

Sirbaz Khan said mountaineering was no longer a priority of the Pakistan government while the mountains were under stress from the housing and timber mafia.

We hardly see action against such mafias and the government in this regard needs to adopt a strategy to promote mainstream mountaineering and engage young enthusiasts.

Sirbaz was also part of the 19-member ‘SST-Dhaulagiri I Expd. 2021 Autumn’ expedition organised by trekking company Seven Summits Trek.

Mountaineering, a technical expedition

Speaking on the occasion, Nazir Sabir, another distinguished mountaineer of Pakistan, who has climbed Mount Everest and four of the five 8000m peaks in Pakistan, including the world’s second highest mountain K2 in 1981 appreciated the nature-lovers for their resolve to keep the Margalla Hills clean and green.

In the changing climate, mountaineering has become a technical subject, he said, adding unpredictable harsh weather has increasingly made this an expensive sport.

With unparalleled high and risky peaks posing a challenge to the world’s renowned mountaineers, today, Pakistan is the centre of attraction for international mountaineers. We must preserve our peaks and mountains as the best mountaineering spots, he said.

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