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IHC directs SAPM on climate change, others to survey National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary areas

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ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday directed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Climate Change Amin Aslam, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change and others to jointly survey the notified areas of the “National Park” and the “Wildlife Sanctuary.”

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah issued the directions while hearing a petition seeking directions for the protection and presentation of the Margalla Hills National Park.

The IHC bench also directed the SAPM, Secretary Climate Change, Chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Chairperson of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to submit a joint report highlighting the damage that has been caused after completing the survey.

The IHC Chief Justice said in the order, “They are also expected to take immediate measures to save the notified area from further harm.” He added, “The aforementioned officials shall forthwith ensure that no construction takes place nor any illegal activity is carried out within the notified areas of the “National Park.” Any activity or construction in violation of the Ordinance of 1979 is hereby ordered to be restrained.”

Pursuant to the court order, dated 05-11-2021, the Attorney General put up appearance and requested for an adjournment to enable him to examine the questions raised in the petitions in hand and the same was allowed.

The IHC bench noted in its order, “The learned Attorney General after examining the purported grant of more than eight thousand acres of land in the “National Park” in favour of Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of the G.H.Q. shall assist this Court regarding its legality because it, prima facie, appears to be in violation of the laws enforced within the Islamabad Capital Territory and Article 173 of the Constitution.”

It added that the Capital Development Authority shall submit a report justifying leasing out land in the “National Park” in favour of M/s Monal Group of Companies and allowing the latter to execute a purported lease agreement with Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate.

The bench further said that the members of the committee constituted vide paragraph 8(i) above are expected to identify the officials and authorities responsible for destruction of the notified area of the “National Park” and suggest how they could be made accountable for their acts and omissions.

It maintained that the members of the committee constituted vide paragraph 8(i) above, shall be jointly and severally responsible if there is further encroachment or destruction of the notified area of the “National Park.”

The court said that the Director General, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency shall conduct an independent survey of the notified area of the “Wildlife Sanctuary” and the “National Park” and submit a report, inter alia, highlighting the extent of environmental degradation and suggest measures to protect it from further destruction.

It continued that the injunctive order, dated 03-03-2021, passed in C.R. No.13/2021 is modified to the extent that till the next date fixed, the due rent shall be deposited in the learned court where the suit is pending.

The court noted that the Board established under section 4 of the Ordinance of 1979 was the designated authority to exercise powers and perform functions, inter alia, to manage, protect and conserve the “Wildlife Sanctuary” and the “National Park” and the CDA was not empowered to authorise the use or lease any part of the “National Park.”

“Moreover, the federal government is not vested with power or jurisdiction to make allotments or lease out part of the notified area of the “National Park.” It appears that the Board constituted under the Ordinance of 1979 has failed in its statutory obligation to protect, preserve and conserve the “National Park.” It also appears to this Court that the Capital Development Authority and the federal government, without having lawful authority and jurisdiction, have facilitated the destruction of the notified “Wildlife Sanctuary” and the “National Park,” said the IHC Chief Justice. Later, the bench deferred the hearing till December 12 for further hearing.



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