When discussions heated up on social media about the illegal activities of the Monal Restaurant operating in the Margalla National Park area in the federal capital, authorities sealed the restaurant and arrested around 50 people. The authorities said that a case would be registered against them. But is Monal doing all this expansion through construction and cutting down trees in one day? To find out more about this restaurant’s illegal activities, Naya Daur Media investigating this issue, talking with the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad and related officials from the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
A high official at the Islamabad Metropolitan Environmental Department told me Naya Daur Media that the authorities had learned five months ago that Monal Restaurant not only carried out illegal construction in Margalla Hills, but also cut down many trees in an effort to expand the site. Officials then visit the restaurant and confirm that both types of illegal activities are taking place.
According to the official who spoke Naya Daur Media, the laws of the National Park Territory around Islamabad are such that you can face legal action even to cut down the bush.
He further stated that four months ago, the Department of Environment had written five letters to CDA and the district municipal authorities, signaling them that the Monal Restaurant was carrying out illegal activities as part of the expansion, and thus damaged Bukit Margalla. There was no response from higher authorities. When another letter was written after this, an oral order arrived: calling on the Environment Department to stay away from this problem and focus on several other productive efforts. After this order, the Department of the Environment is silent on this issue.
When asked why the Metropolitan Environment Department Corporation did not notify the relevant environmental ministry, the official explained that legally, this department could only inform either the CDA or the district municipal authority.
A federal capital administration official told Naya Daur Media that Monal has cut more than 200 trees as part of an expansion effort, but it is not true that this was done during the Coronavirus confinement. In fact, he clarified, the project had been going on for five months, and administration came into effect only when restaurant management had spread a lot of damage.
The Director of the Directorate of City Administration (DMA) at Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, Zafar Iqbal, was removed from his position due to failure to take timely action on Monal’s illegal activities and involvement in corruption.
Naya Daur Media asked a senior official at the Climate Change Ministry about illegal expansion activities at the Monal Restaurant, and learned that the ministry had been aware of this problem several months ago. High officials in the ministry were then notified of this. Some officials later claimed to have spoken with the restaurant owner, and they had told them that they had received permission for this project. These officials said that they knew who had given the permission.
When Naya Daur Media speaking with Prime Minister Adviser for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, he stated that the government believed in transparency and that no one was allowed to damage the forest.
He went on to say that the Ministry was investigating this serious negligence, and would take the harshest action against anyone found involved.
Naya Daur Media repeatedly tried to contact the DMA director at Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad Zafar Iqbal to comment, but he did not respond.
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