Islamabad - The land mafia has accelerated levelling earth in Margalla Hills National Park near Shah Allah Ditta to create plots following massive tree cutting, according to the footage available with The Nation.

Cutting of the jungle and illegal occupation of parts of Margalla Hills National Park forest from Burji no. 18 to Burji no. 21 continues under direct supervision of a local leader of a national political party, apparently in connivance with CDA officials. The impunity with which the destruction of forests in the National Park is continuing despite Supreme Court’s notice suggests that the land grabbers are enjoying backing of influential people.

Heavy machinery is being used to level earth and carve out pavements, the footage shows. The private builders have started carving out plots on about 200 kanals of land in the National Park area in the foothills of Margalla.

The land, north of sector D-12, was acquired by the CDA in 1969 and declared as the National Park. The civic agency could not stop construction activity in the area apparently due to involvement of influential people.

The footage shows that heavy machinery is being used to bulldoze the hills as a local political leader sits on a nearby chair to monitor the operation. The land mafia has not only bulldozed the mountains but has also cut jungle on a vast area, the footage suggests.

In October 2017, after being censured by the apex court, the CDA had asked the government for Rangers’ deployment in the Margalla Hills National Park during its campaign to remove illegal constructions from Zone-III. The SC criticised the CDA for its failure to protect the Margalla Hills from illegal construction and cutting of trees during hearing of the suo moto case regarding construction in the National Park.

The CDA officials have always faced resistance whenever they tried to take action against what they consider illegal occupation of a vast piece of land in Zone-III near Sector D-12. Few months back, the officials of the Enforcement Directorate and other high officials visited the area with the purpose to initiate operation to retrieve the land but they had to face stiff resistance from the occupants. The CDA officials were abused verbally by the locals before they were forced to pack up and leave the scene.

In 2016, the Islamabad Citizens’ Forum had also urged the city’s managers to protect the Margalla Hills from encroachers. The forum had called a press conference in support of the CDA operation against an illegal housing society in Shah Allah Ditta during which the CDA claimed that it retrieved 100 kanals of land. Construction in Zone-III is completely proscribed under CDA Zoning Regulation 1992 so that greenery and foliage area of this zone could be protected.

In the meantime, a citizen has approached Golra police for taking action against the land grabbers in the area. Qamar Iqbal, son of Iqbal Ahmed Zahid of Shah Allah Ditta, in an application dated March 8 alleged that some persons connected to a political party had been using heavy machinery for cutting trees and levelling earth in the area which is a clear violation of the SC orders. The police are yet to take any action on the application, according to the sources in the police.