by Rafique Ahmed Sidiki, Karachi
Courtesy: Daily Dawn, 30.4.2009
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The province of Sindh is almost deprived of all its forest cover, as centuries old forests available on both sides of the river Indus have been eliminated and converted into agriculture lands and at the present are occupied by the influential of the area on long term leases.
The small leftover woodlands of province are also in danger to the insatiable hunger of land mafias. The fire in Pai Forest Nawabshah as reported in dawn “Probe ordered into Pai Forest fire” (April 23) also appears to be one of the machinations of those involved in the land grabbing so as to create a viable excuse to get hold of virgin lands on long term lease after clearing it from trees.
The Pai forest, once flourishing woodland was originally spread over an area of 5901 acres. Subsequently an area of 1,015.4 acres was transferred to the department of agriculture and 140 acres were given to the army for the establishment of cantonment; leaving with only 4000 acres for trees. Now this small piece of tree cover is also an eyesore to covetous land grabbers. These are the same people who in order to achieve their nefarious designs have already slaughtered old trees of Pai forest in cahoots with forest department officials, as reported by the spokesperson of World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, working at the site.
The present fire in the Pie forest can not be treated as an isolated incident for which an enquiry such as ordered by the area MNA will suffice. This is a heinous crime which straight-away requires drastic action against the perpetrators. In the first place the provincial forest department should accept responsibility of its failure and at least remove those who are working in the field. Besides enquiry team should also unearth those influential land grabbers who have covetous designs on forest lands. In case their involvement is established, they should be arrested for plundering our precious national wealth.
I am afraid if no appropriate action is taken now and things continue to persist in the usual cavalier fashion the a little left over woodland cover will also vanish like most of the river banks forests. The forest department (right from Secretary to the junior most official) whose primary responsibly is to preserve the forest has indubitably failed in discharge of its duty as no forest cover worth mention is now available in Sindh.
I request the Chief Minster Sindh; an elected representative of the people and the chief executive of province to constitute a high powered commission to look into the affairs of ‘Sindh Forests’. The commission should suggest appropriate measures for re-acquiring forest lands including proposing stern actions against the department functionaries who have failed to discharged their assigned duty so that province of Sindh is not deprived of its left over trees: a catastrophe of highest proportion. Those forest lands obtained on lease or forcibly takeover by influential land lords after restoration be give to reforestation at the right earnest.
Rafique Ahmed Sidiki
Bridge View Apartment, Karachi .
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Courtesy: Daily Dawn Karachi, 30.4.2009