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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.


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 of conflict: Margalla Tunnel Project, Pakistan
State or province: Punjab
Location of conflict: Islamabad
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Not specified

Project area:10,100 hectares (25000 acres)
Level of Investment:Estimated USD $12,000,000,000.00
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:Unknown
Start of the conflict:29/03/2012
End of the conflict:25/10/2013
Relevant government actors:Capital Development Authority (CDA)
National Highway Authority (NHA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Subh e Nau
Margalla Hill’s Society
Internaional Union for Conservation of Nature, Islamabad (IUCN)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
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-economical 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
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Project cancelled
Development of alternatives:A 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

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

Margallah Hills National Park
[click to view]

Margalla Hills National Park
[click to view]

National park biodiversity of Margallas at risk
[click to view]

Margalla hills tunnel project - SC seeks Punjab k p Governments's reply
[click to view]

Protected Areas of Pakistan - Margalla
[click to view]

Supreme Court brings Margalla tunnel project to an end
[click to view]

A tunnel without vision
[click to view]

Margalla hills tunnel - Traders and lawyers support project
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

An open talk - Kuch Khaas: Margalla Hills Tunnel: An Environmental Disaster!
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Mahnoor Naveed/ [email protected]/ Institute of Rural Management (IRM) in Islamabad, Pakistan
Last update18/08/2019
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