Feature: Islamabad hiking trails

By Mehwish Azam

Islamabad: Amid all the disarray caused by novel coronavirus (Covid-19), capital hiking trails of Margala Hills National Park are providing a therapeutic activity to the residents of Islamabad who have been confined to their homes for several weeks due to lockdown.

Soon after the Islamabad administration decided to reopen hiking trails with strict orders to follow the Standard operating procedures (SOPs), many hikers including males and females, turned towards the healthy activity of running and walking in mountains to break down the stress of being locked down in homes.

The trails had been shut down during the lockdown imposed in the country to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, last month, the district administration of the city issued a notification for hiking trails to be reopened for the public.

According to the order, residents can go for hiking while strictly following the rules of social distancing. A six feet distance has to be maintained between people at all times with face masks on as a mandatory rule.

Whereas residents have expressed their delight over the decision and they also assured that everyone could protect themselves from the virus if social distancing was maintained.

The Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad’s environment directorate will be responsible for implementing the SOPs and guidelines in this regard.

A regular hiker from Rawalpindi, Jawad Ali Shah told APP that since the tracks were reopened, plenty of people were coming up but trail 3 has been the busiest so far. “Usually trail 3 and 5 were crowded on weekends while wearing masks on entry points were mandatory which was being monitored by the officials”, he added.

Another hiker, Rabia Moin from Islamabad said that she had been hiking since 2017 and she had missed this healthy activity during the lockdown. “Coming on these tracks and spending time in nature surrounded by my friends is like a food for my soul and is necessary for my peace of mind”, she added.

The scenic park, which stretches over 17,000 hectares, is one of the most popular leisure destinations for not only capital’s dwellers but also for wildlife. With lockdown in practice, these trails experienced human absence for weeks that encouraged some of the endangered species, which were feared to have disappeared from the region, to show up.

In late March, only days into the capital city’s lockdown, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board cameras started to spot leopards. “We have seen three leopards in the park, and they all were in different locations, far away from each other,” said an official clarifying that these were three different cats, not just one recorded three times.

Although, Coronavirus has been rather deadly for humans around the world but a break from regular human activity has proven to be soothing in many terms not only for humans but animals as well which can be witnessed on margalla hiking trails.