ABOUT KALINJAR

Kalinjar, situated immediately to the north of the Federal Capital of Islamabad at 33°48'N,73°10'E, has been placed in The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Management Category V(Protected Landscape). It was declared a national park on 27 April 1980 under Section 21(1) ofthe Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Conservation and Management) Ordinance, 1979. Prior to1960, much of the area was a reserve forest. Subsequently, it was declared a wildlife sanctuarycomprising an area of 17,386 ha under the West Pakistan Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1959.Areas merged into the MargallaHills National Park include compartments 2-5, 7-23, 28, 30-38(i) and 41(ii) of theMargalla Forest Reserve, compartments 1-25 of the Military Grass Farm, and various other landsmaking a total area of 14,786 ha.

The Margalla Hills range between 456 m and 1,580 m in altitude. The topography is rugged,with numerous valleys and steep slopes. Rocks have been observed to date back to the Jurassicand Triassic ages, limestone being characteristic of the region (though shale, clay, andsandstone are also present). Soils are dark, with a high mineral content, and are capable ofsupporting good tree growth despite being shallow.

 


The climate is subtropical semi-arid. The region lies in the monsoon belt and experiences tworainy seasons. Winter rains last from January until March, and summer rains from July toSeptember. Temperatures range from 1-15 °C in winter and 20-40 °C during the summer.Annual average rainfall is 1,000 mm. There have been occasional incidents of light snowfall insevere winters (Niazi 1999, Kalyar 2004, Gulshan 2004).

Despite its small size, the fauna of the Margalla hills is quite diverse. This can be attributed tohabitat diversity, thick vegetative cover, and steep slopes that provide shelter to the importantpark species such as grey goral. The Margalla hills are an extension of the Himalayas andprovide a corridor for many Himalayan species to reach southern parts such as the Kala ChittaHills. The area is rich in floral and faunal biodiversity. Kalinjar is home to many animalspecies such as rhesus monkey, barking deer, grey goral, wild boar, jackal, porcupine,mongoose, pangolin, leopard, various birds of prey, game birds, reptiles, fish, snakes, and avariety of butterflies. Surveys conducted recently by HimalayaWildlife Foundation in the Park recorded 31 species ofsmall and large mammals, and 218 of birds. Out of these, 82 are resident, 32 are summervisitors and breeding species, 73 are winter visitors, and 31 are transit migrants mainly from andto the Himalayan heights. The number of amphibian and reptile species observed in the surveyswere 21, while 22 species of fish and 25 species of butterfly were recorded.

When Kalinjar was first notified, the habitats of the Margalla Hills range were already severelydegraded and modified for agricultural purposes. The forests had been cleared, and trees closerto human habitations had been cut down in large numbers. Bushes and grasses were victim toover grazing resulting in extensive soil erosion. Most of the western half of the Park is undererosion due to the presence of stone quarries and a lack of vegetative cover. Muddy water flowsinto the park’s streams from these areas in the rainy season.Stone quarries had been established at various points on the southern face along the entirerange. Native game species were under the threat of hunting, netting, and trapping.Sustained management activities by the Capital Development Authority have led to significant vegetative re-growth overthe last 30 years on the southern part of the mountain facing Islamabad in the eastern half,between Bari Imam area and Faisal mosque. However, the theft of wood is still rampant in therest of the hilly region, and livestock grazing has gradually increased near the villages due toincreased populations and the increase in the demand for milk in Islamabad.Law enforcement was however effective in areas closer to Islamabad. Hunting was banned,although hidden poaching continues. Quarrying and stone crushing was ultimately prohibited inthe eastern half of the National Park. Plantation campaigns by CDA and others have contributedto reducing the negative pressure of communities on habitats in the areas facing Islamabad.


Flora and fauna have occupied protected areas in increasing numbers with the passage of time.There are over 131,000 people living in 25 major rural settlements within and in the closeproximity of the National Park. The people rear livestock in large numbers and procure fodderfrom the Park. In addition, large herds of goats are brought down from higher valleys in thewinter months to graze. Other activities contributing to the degradation of natural habitats inthe Park include sewerage water flowing down the mountain slopes, burning solid waste in theopen, and depleting groundwater from wells and springs. Other villages in the vicinity of thePark collect firewood and depend on local grazing grounds.

There are 24 areas in the national park where seasonal forest fires take place, according to theCapital Development Authority (CDA). Fires in the Park usually occur in the dry months of April,May, June, and early July. These months coincide with the breeding season of indigenous birds.Consequently, habitats, flora and fauna, and nestlings alike suffer.

There is a police check post, a small building that houses the Margalla Conservation and InformationCenter (MCIC), a car park, and the Islamabad zoo at the main entrance of theNational Park at Marghzar base. There are also overhead electricity and telephone wirestraveling along the side of the road up to PirSohawa.A two-lane metalled road and the installation of roadside lights in the Park has increased traffic—and subsequently air and noise pollution—from Islamabad to Daman-e-koh, PirSohawa, and theMakhnial range, especially on national and religious holidays.

The road begins at Marghzar,zigzags up the hill and over the crest of the mountain to PirSohawa where there are severalrestaurants, more planned in the near future, and two CDA lodges. The road continues on tothe northern adjacent MakhnialRange. It has two branches going down the NeeliKassiValley.

Another road winds through the ShahdaraValley on the eastern side and connects with the mainroad at the top of the range. There is also a road to Talhar village and Gokina village, and anetwork of roads to the eastern flank of the Park.

 


There is regular morning and evening private transport traffic from the villages to Islamabad andbeyond for hundreds of workers and students. There is a cement factory at its base and manyquarrying sites in the ridges at the western edge of the mountain. Other human disturbancesinclude several trekking paths, which are very popular with the citizens of Islamabad. Visitorshave developed a tendency to feed monkeys along the paths, thereby creating an imbalance inspecies as well as unnatural polarization of monkeys and other scavengers, and making the parkattractive for the predators such as leopards.