islamabad - For nearly a decade, the start of every summer season in the capital has seen a fire eruption at Margalla Hills. However, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) instead of taking preventive measures has been a silent spectator to these incidents.

“The information of fire eruption is passed to the Emergency Disaster Management Directorate (EDMD) of CDA within minutes, but the response is always delayed,” said a forest ranger Ahmed Nawaz*.

Nearly ten years ago, CDA established EDMD to cope with emergency situations in the city. However, since its formation the department’s capacity has not been equipped to extinguish the fire at Margalla hills.

The fire spreads to a large area of the mountains and causes damage to the environment. The EDMD with a total of 53 rescue vehicles and more than 200 fire-fighters has to rely on the villagers and gardeners hired on daily wages for extinguishing the forest fire.

Details of the rescue items include 35 large and seven mini fire tenders, 05 snorkels, 06 command vans, 01, rescue truck, 04 ambulances and two pick-ups.

“None of these items are used to extinguish the forest fire, and for this purpose ‘jungle techniques are used to extinguish it,” said forest ranger.

He said that the counter fire techniques are dependent on manpower, which erupt fire in the opposite direction and tries to extinguish it.

 “Simply, the centuries old technique of extinguishing fire with fire is used by CDA,” said the forest official.

Every year, the fire season at Margalla Hills starts around April 15 but CDA has never taken preventive measures or adopted modern techniques for early fire extinguishing which harms the environment of national park.

“It is a misconception that fire erupts on hills because of high temperature; it’s always caused by human error or the intention of timber mafia to burn the jungle,” he said.

The forest ranger said there are no rules regarding visitors or specific picnic points in the forest, because of which their negligence in smoking and cooking causes a fire which spreads to several kilometers in the area and affects the wildlife of the national park.

“CDA can neither regulate the forest area nor make efforts for putting out the fire, it’s a silent spectator only,” the ranger said.

Ahmed Nawaz said that during the rule of former President Pervez Musharraf, military helicopters were used to extinguish the fires and since then CDA has been relying on them instead on enhancing its own capacity.

“Eighty gardeners and 400 daily wages staff of the environment section of CDA are engaged in fire extinguishing who are sometimes given dysfunctional wireless sets and vehicles to run in emergency situations,” he said.

With such the minimum force and without any mechanism the forest department officials are paraded to fight ideal situations of great fire at the Margallah hills.

“Fire erupted with human error expands with hot temperature, the oxygen and dry leaves and twigs in jungle,” he added.

 Director Emergency Wing, Irfan Niazi talking to The Nation said that the fire at Margalla hills erupts every year because of human error while the department has no comparison with international standards.

“In US and Australia, the departments have their own helicopters to extinguish the fire while the fire brigade department and its vehicles are used for only the rescue operations in urban areas,” he said.

He also added that local human resource is the largest weapon in the department to meet such situations every year.

Meanwhile, spokesperson CDA Malik Saleem talking to The Nation said that he cannot give any details regarding the issue as today is a holiday.

“There are a number of development schemes in the cities but saving our jungle is a priority of the government,” said Nawaz.