ISLAMABAD – Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), which has a potential for developing it as a eco-tourist spot is facing many threats, including stone crushing, forest fires and tree cutting.

It is ultimately resulting in squeezing of the actual core habitat and concentration of animal and birds in certain pockets. Ever-increasing human settlements, mining, fuel wood extraction, wildlife hunting, livestock grazing, road construction, air, noise and water pollution, and recently installed lights on the Daman-e-Koh Road are the main problems in the park area.

Entire avifauna of Pakistan comprises 667 birds and out of these, 380 species of birds are seen in federal capital enhancing the natural beauty of the metropolitan in which diverse weather condition prevails throughout the year.

Common, abundant and frequent species are 244 in total and the new species which were first seen in Islamabad are Olive-backed Pipit and Dusky Warbler.

There is an unconfirmed sighting of red-legged Falcon, which would be a new species for Pakistan, Director Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) Dr Rafique told APP.

Several globally threatened species were also seen, he said, adding oriental white backed vulture is often seen, occasionally even in large numbers. Dr Rafique said the birds that have been considered at the verge of extirpation in Pakistan, include Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.

He said interesting seasonal changes are that many more birds seem to have become at least occasional winter visitors, not only double passage migrants or summer visitors. Director PMNH said the park on the right side of the Rawal Lake might be a potential threat for bird species and needs a continuous monitoring.

He said the MHNP is being treated as a national park with hotels, roads, restaurants, streetlights, viewpoints and jogging tracks.

It is the only park in Pakistan and perhaps in the world, right at the side of two big cities, Dr Rafique said, adding authorities have to decide the fate of this park before it is too late.