RAWALPINDI, Nov 16: The Punjab government has decided to declare Murree as a pollutionfree tourism town, and in this regard surveys and studies will be conducted to develop a master plan for the most popular hill station.
As part of the decision, Murree has been declared as environment sensitive area and the status of all projects surrounding the Islamabad-Murree expressway will be reviewed keeping in view the importance of environment.
The government will also review the criteria for issuing noobjection certificate (NOC) for projects and all existing NOCs will once again go under scrutiny. The district officer environment has been asked to carry out a survey of all the projects which have been granted no-objection certificates to bring them under the Environment Protection Act of 1997.
District Coordination Officer Rawalpindi Imdadullah Bosal told Dawn that a steering committee was being formed with the commissioner Rawalpindi as its chairman to monitor the implementation of decisions taken for protection of environment.
Officials of the wildlife, tourism, forest and environment departments would be members of the committee.
The government also plans to include IUCN and WWF in the committee.
The DCO said Kotli Sattian and Kahuta were also being declared as environment sensitive areas as part of the plan to make Murree a pollution-free tourism town.
Situated at an altitude of 7,500 feet from sea level, Murree is one of the largest resort towns in the Galyat area.
In view of the ongoing security situation in the tourism potential areas of NWFP including Swat, Murree has become an important spot for tourists.
Tourism in Murree was at its peak last summer when domestic tourists from all over the country spent their holidays in the thriving resort.
Murree has great potential for tourism but tourists are discouraged due to lack of basic facilities like standard and budget hotels and efficient transport. While the Punjab government faces shortage of funds and is unable to develop the summer resort further, private sector is also shy and making no major investment in the area.
The ongoing development in Murree and adjoining areas to meet the demands of growing population has created an imbalance between development and conservation. The beauty of Murree is being marred by highrising buildings despite legislation restrictions.
The forests of Murree, which are part of the unique Himalayan forest ecosystem, are also under severe threat due to overuse and ill-planned infrastructure. The provision of natural gas to the hill station would be of great help to reduce the degradation of natural forests of high ecological significance.