‘Government should protect forests’

‘Government should protect forests’

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Karachi, Pakistan: About 600,000 acres of Sindh’s forestland in Pakistan that was illegally occupied is likely to be taken over again as soon as the floodwater recedes. The government can, however, step in to prevent this from happening. “This provides the government an opportunity to declare these areas protected zones and to pass an immediate order for GIS-mapping and aerial-seeding for reforestation,” said Qazi Ali Athar, an environmental lawyer, in an interview with The Express Tribune. “Aerial-seeding was successfully carried out at Margalla Hills around Islamabad in the past,” he added as an example.

At a time when people all over the world are working to safeguard the planet’s irreplaceable natural wealth and celebrating the ongoing year as the “International Year of Biodiversity”, the Sindh government is trying to convert forests into revenue lands so that they could be handed over to influential people and potential investors.

“We have a very different situation in our country. Accords and treaties are being signed all over the world to conserve nature, but here, whatever forest resources we have, are being destroyed by the government itself.”

As per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a quarter of every country’s territory should be under forest cover, and all signatories of the MDGs have pledged that they will protect and try to increase their forestlands till 2015.

“We only have around 4.42 per cent forest cover in our country and the government had vowed to enhance it to seven per cent, but unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be happening.”

Athar said that the provinces follow the 1927 Federal Forest Act, under which no provincial government could touch the forest at any cost. However, the Sindh Agro Forest Policy was passed in 2004 that allowed 40-acre plots to be given on a 10-year lease to individuals.

Source: The Express Tribune