ISLAMABAD: Despite the efforts of land grabbers and real estate developers, most of the national park area in the capital city remains untouched due to a ban on construction.
However, according to environmentalists, the completion of the Margalla Avenue project has increased the likelihood of ill-planned housing and commercial construction, which could lead to environmental damage in the Margalla Hills Range’s national park area.
They argue that the green image of the capital has been tarnished by infrastructure development, rapid urbanization, and migration.
Furthermore, real estate developers and investors are attracted to the newly-constructed Margalla Avenue, with land prices reportedly still lower than nearby residential sectors of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
However, the emergence of Margalla Avenue has also revived the long-awaited Gandhara Triangular Enclave (GTE) project, a commercial-cum-residential project proposed over a decade ago by the CDA.
The sources confirmed that the GTE project, comprised of 74 acres, includes five apartment towers, a shopping center, farmhouses, and a cinema.
It is believed by the residents that if the project is approved and developed, construction activity will not remain confined to it and will instead pave the way for a concrete jungle along the entire avenue and upwards toward Margalla Hills.
According to sources, the CDA has already approved the summary for the GTE project, but it must be sent to the federal cabinet for final approval.
The details suggest that the project falls in Zone I and partially in Zone III, with the Cabinet being the competent forum to grant approval for construction in Zone III, a protected area intended to maintain the city’s green character.
According to a private town planner, while regulations to provide relief to private landowners for the construction of small houses are justifiable, massive-scale construction such as the GTE project in Zone III would destroy the city’s green image.
Moreover, the project could be extended across Margalla Avenue, encroaching into the national park area and damaging its natural habitat, he added.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is contemplating various options to prevent ill-planned construction activities in the Margalla Hills National Park area of Islamabad.
When contacted, CDA Chairman Noorul Amin Mengal said that the authority was conducting various studies to determine how planned construction activities should be carried out in the area.
Mengal stated that under the GTE plan, a significant gap between two high-rise buildings would be maintained to ensure that the view of the hills was not blocked.
He also mentioned a proposal to restrict construction to only 20% of the plot area in localities near the national park to maintain its green character.
Another proposal suggested that no construction should be allowed in the area from Margalla Avenue to the hills.
However, a source from the CDA reported that it would be difficult for the authority to prevent all construction in the area due to investments made by influential people.
To prevent the construction of commercial buildings, the Chairman issued orders to erect fences on both sides of Margalla Avenue, similar to the motorways.