National park land may be lost to land mafia

ISLAMABAD, April 8: The post with a stump for a barrier is not there to guard the

Northern Pakistan

Northern Pakistan (Photo credit: Imran...)

area where the road goes to but to keep a watch on what looks up for grabs to the land mafia in the national park skirts the picturesque Rawal lake.

It is a telltale sign that land grabbers are on the lookout of carving out the several hundred kanals of the park land, a property of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), for sale to gullible buyers.The illegal activity in the park area came into notice when some lower park management staff realised that CDA milestones had started vanishing and were being replaced by a brand new knee-high 25 to 30 feet long wall and a barrier adjacent to a tiny concrete guard post (installed by land grabbers) inside the park territory. The barrier and the guard post came up in the last two weeks.

Director Enforcement CDA Ramzan Joya claimed to have rolled up his sleeves and sent a team to remove the illegal encroachment last week. However, the structures were intact till Sunday morning. The steel barrier has, however, been cut.

The official told Dawn that he was ignorant of a jeepable road that took interested buyers – ignorant of what they were getting themselves into – to the only two-room property office that sat on top of a hillock in the national park territory and gave a stunning panoramic view of the lake in the front and the Margalla Hills beyond on the horizon.

The lone property office is, however, hidden behind a tiny hill and not visible from the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) road on the borderline of the park. Roughly, a year ago the property office was demolished but a new building stands on the spot now.

However, an official in the environment wing of the civic agency said this was another Bhara Kahu or Banigala waiting to happen – illegal and haphazard developments around the Rawal Lake.

“It is important that the government or the Supreme Court step in to stop this encroachment into park area before another environmental disaster happens – ill-planned constructions, streets and houses just like we see in the surroundings in Banigala and Bhara Kahu,” the official said.

He also warned/discouraged citizens to be wary of alluring tactics of property dealers and to not be tricked into buying property in the park areas.

“People do not know what they are getting themselves into. It’s a trick and the territory is CDA national park,” said the official.

The director enforcement said he was sending a team on Monday to ensure that encroachment of any kind was removed.

Lamenting how his job became difficult, Mr Joya said: “It is not easy. There have been times when we razed illegal constructions. But later people produced documents from the revenue department that their constructions were legitimate and CDA did not have jurisdiction.”