Crashing at the foot of the Himalayas

Caption: Fire and smoke rises from the wreckage of a passenger plane which has crashed in The Margalla Hills on the outskirts of Islamabad on July 28, 2010. A Pakistani passenger plane with 157 people on board crashed in a ball of flames in densely wooded hills while trying to land in Islamabad during bad weather, aviation officials said.

ISLAMABAD: An Airblue airbus aircraft with 151 passengers and six crew members onboard crashed into Margalla Hills outside of Islamabad on Wednesday. This is the first time a passenger plane has crashed into Margalla Hills.

The Margalla Hills are located at the foothills of the Himalayas where small-elevation hills are located north of Islamabad, Pakistan. Margalla Range has an area of 12,605 hectares. The hill range sits between an elevation of 685 meters in the west and 1,604 meters in the east.

The rock formations in the hills are 40 million years old, and fossils of marine life abound show that the Margalla Hills were once under the sea. The dominant limestone of the Margalla is mixed with sandstone and some beds of shale. The archaeologists have also found two human footprints over one million years old here, preserved in sandstone.

The vegetation is short and stunted and the Margalla Hills are home to various species of wildlife, including monkeys, exotic birds and carnivores such as the rare and endangered Margalla leopard. Commonly found animals in the  There is another group of animals that deserves mention: the snakes of Margalla Hills. There are a number of species of poisonous snakes in the area, including cobras, Russell’s Vipers and kraits. The Margallas are an excellent place for bird watchers, the area is home to a large number of birds, including robins, sparrows, kites, crows, larks, paradise flycatchers, black partridge, shrikes, pheasants, spotted doves, Egyptian vultures, falcons, hawks and eagles.

The Margallas are excellent for hiking and cater to both the regular serious hikers and the less serious occasional enthusiasts. There are many spots for rock climbing in Margalla Hills. Facilities for paragliding are provided by private clubs based in Islamabad.

The ecology of Margallas faces threats from quarrying by ‘crush plants,’ deforestation, illegal encroachments and buildings, and poachers. The Himalayan Wildlife Foundation is running a project on a ‘sustainable management strategy for the Margalla Hills National Park.’

The Margalla Hills Society’s, a registered non-governmental organization,  main objective is to preserve the natural environment of Margalla Hills National Park and prevent shrinkage of the green areas; to promote public interest in conservation, development and management of forests, wildlife and other natural resources of Margalla Hills National Park, and to disseminate information about the Park, including its history, geography, flora, fauna, culture, and its benefits to the citizens of Islamabad.