Margalla Tunnel Project, Pakistan

A tunnel was planned to be constructed through Margalla Hills, connecting Islamabad with Haripur. It would have caused environmental impacts as well as disrupt the settlements living in the mountain. Citizens protested this and stopped the project.


Description

In 2012, the federal government had plans to start a project to build a tunnel, passing through the hills that would connect the capital city to Haripur city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its surrounding areas. It aims to provide an easy and short route from one side of the Margalla Hills to the other side, through a tunnel that would create an access to its users to bypass the much longer and crowded route from Taxilla. This project stirred up quite a bit of reprisal from the society as they started holding meetings to plan and organize a peaceful public walk and spread awareness about the damages that this tunnel project could bring to the city and the dispersion of the local communities in the Hills due to this tunnel.  Formed in 1989, Marglla Hills Society which is led by Mr. Roedad Khan, a former civil servant and a politician, aims to preserve the natural environment of Margalla Hills National Park and avoid shrinkage of the green areas to promote the interest of public to preserve and manage forests, wildlife and other natural resources found in Margalla Hills Nationals Park including the history, geography, flora and fauna culture and its benefits to the citizens of Islamabad. What Mr Roedad and his team presented was simple in nature and logical. Firstly, to develop any project within the boundaries of the National Park is prohibited by law and second, the short and direct route of the tunnel that would be connecting the city to the terrorist threats from KPK causing more risks of to the public safety. Lastly, this mega project would harm the beauty of the Hills, create more pollution and health issues, and disturb the environment and the wildlife of the Hills. Margalla Hills Society called out to the public to protest in a peaceful way to attract the notice of the authorities, by having protest meetings and walks at the park to raise the issue. By creating a Steering Committee formed by the concerned citizens, and along with the help of other environmental NGOS such as Subh e Nau and a few members from the parliament, together they were able to stop this construction from continuing.

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Basic Data
Name Margalla Tunnel Project, Pakistan
CountryPakistan
Province Punjab
Site Islamabad
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsNot specified
Project Area (in hectares)10,100 hectares (25000 acres)
Level of Investment (in USD)Estimated USD $12,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected PopulationUnknown
Start Date29/03/2012
End Date25/10/2013
Relevant government actorsCapital Development Authority (CDA)

National Highway Authority (NHA)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSubh e Nau

Margalla Hill’s Society

Internaional Union for Conservation of Nature, Islamabad (IUCN)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesA member of the Steering Committee formed by te concerned citizens, with the help of Margalla Hills Society, Bilal Haq stated that the aim of the project was to connect the people of Haripur to Islamabad and reduce their travel time. However, this can be done by making the existing road infrastructure better, by making it signal free. If this can be done, then 15 to 20 minutes of travel time would be reduced from a total travel time compared to a direct tunnel.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.This was a success because this showed the people’s awareness about keeping their environment intact and their willingness to stop it. The Margalla Hills now remain free from any such development, and still remains the lifeline of the city.
Sources and Materials
References

Ilegal Mining and Quarrying at Margalla Hills. (July2016). PAKISTAN CONSTRUCTION & QUARRY.

Roedad Khan, “The rape of the Margalla Hills,” The News. 07-07-2009.

Links

National park biodiversity of Margallas at risk
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Margallah Hills National Park
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Margalla Hills National Park
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Margalla hills tunnel project - SC seeks Punjab k p Governments's reply
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Protected Areas of Pakistan - Margalla
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Supreme Court brings Margalla tunnel project to an end
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A tunnel without vision
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Margalla hills tunnel - Traders and lawyers support project
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Media Links

An open talk - Kuch Khaas: Margalla Hills Tunnel: An Environmental Disaster!
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Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorMahnoor Naveed/ [email protected]/ Institute of Rural Management (IRM) in Islamabad, Pakistan
Last update19/09/2017
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