Once there was a clear water stream that emerged from somewhere in the Margalla Hills and cascaded its way under the bridge on Murree Road just short of Barakahu. Then it curved its way to join the Korang Nullah. We always motored past this watercourse on what was the old route to Murree Hills and marvelled at the beauty of the surrounding landscape dotted here and there with locals angling for fish. The stream of my childhood days is still there, but its waters are now grey with sewage and its marine life is dead and gone.

There was once a time not so long ago when no less than nineteen mountain streams flowed down from the Margallas and rippled their way through the Federal Capital between Golra and Barakahu. I was lucky to have visited the site of the new capital in the mid-sixties as an adventurous teenager and was always captivated by the sights and sounds of these clear water channels teeming with fish. Green grass and local flora covered the banks and if one waited discreetly awhile amongst the rocks, one was apt to see indigenous species of wildlife visiting them for a drink.

I then came to spend a short residential stint in the Capital City in 1973, when construction was just making inroads into E7 and F7. I found that a large number of these watercourses still supported marine life and families were found picnicking on their garbage free banks. I became a permanent resident of this city in 1994 and immediately visited these streams. I was horrified to see that sewage and dumping of garbage had played havoc with them. The once clear water was now murky and barring one that flowed in the vicinity of what is now the Ministers Enclave, all fish and other marine animals had vanished.

The residents of Sectors F6 and 7 were, till a couple of years ago regaled by the sight of Rhesus Monkeys, who would descend from the Margalla Hills and forage for food. While these small apes generated some nuisance, they were indulgently tolerated by people, who fed them with leftovers and fruit. I have searched in vain for these funny little creatures during my walks on Margalla Road, but have been unable to spot them. What has made them disappear is something that escapes me, but I miss the little rascals and wish them well.

Utterly convinced of government apathy, I am waiting (perhaps naively) for the day, when private sector giants become cognizant of the unfolding catastrophe and fulfill their ecological responsibility by adopting streams running through Islamabad and in so doing mobilize a cleanup operation that restores nature’s true balance. This will however be a temporary remedy unless the people responsible to administer the city begin imposing deterrent penalties on residents, who violate their habitat’s natural beauty.

As time goes by, I am witnessing the decay of what was once rated as one of the most beautiful cities of the world – a decay caused by an ineptly corrupt administration, couldn’t-care-less citizenry and mushrooming commercialization. For the time being, my hope lies in a group of a few individuals, led by a former senior and ageing bureaucrat, who have in the past stood up to defend the city’s natural beauty. This highly motivated group has managed to obtain a few stay orders, but their voice is being smothered by successive governments insensitive to what is happening – partly because their Heads have no emotional strings attached to this beautiful piece of God’s earth. This is perhaps the reason too, for the permanent cloud of dust that now hangs above the Federal Capital on account of a mass transit project, that will in the long run be rated as just another cosmetic legacy of a political Party for whom good governance did not lie in revamping education, healthcare and law enforcement, but in metro bus projects, which ran on public sector subsidies.