KARACHI: The Sindh province has lost 90 percent of its total forests which comprises on 2.86 million acres in recent years, though these forests were officially protected but even than these forests disappeared and the forest land is illegally occupied by political mafia for cultivation and other purposes, Daily Times learnt on Tuesday.
Last week, Sindh government approved its annual budget comprised on Rs. 1.04 trillion, but it has not allocated anything for the restoration of its forest cover.
Renowned environmental law attorney Qazi Ali Athar has filed a constitutional petition in Supreme Court of Pakistan on massive deforestation, in which he pleads the court to ask provincial government to vacate forest land and restore the forest cover.
In the petition, the petitioner disclosed that Sindh has statutory protected total 2,858,748 (or 2.86 million) Acers Forests Cover, which categorized as 605,583 Acres Riverine Forests, 182,314 Acres Inland Forests and 751,063 Acres Coastal Forests (Mangroves) 1,319,788 Acres Rangelands.
"Though shortage of water in River Indus has contributed in it but mostly the unkind policies and political influence in Forest department, 90 percent Forest Cover has been deforested and almost entire Forest Land has been illegally occupied for agriculture purposes by political mafia including Ministers and public representatives, facilitated by the Respondent Forests & Revenue departments," said the petitioner.
"Almost entire Pakistan in general and Sindh province in particular, is suffering with adverse impacts by a destabilized Climate system and catastrophic Climate Changes that are caused by the massive deforestation and tree cutting," said the petitioner.
The Government of Pakistan had signed a "Millennium Development Goals" in 2005 with 'United Nations Organization' and presently "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Program" to enhance Forest Cover from '4.2' to '15% percent'.
"For that, the government has received millions of dollars from World Bank and other donor agencies and on the other hand deforestation across the country, specially for the Riverine & Mangrove Forests of Sindh, said the petitioner, adding that but the forest is continuously facing threats under from department of Forests, as well as Irrigation and Highways and Local Government department to the Government of Sindh.
These departments are responsible for cutting of Mangroves from Coastline and unique she sham, Talhi, Tari, Tari/ Shesham Trees which first and foremost found growing along river banks below '900 meters' elevation, but can range naturally up to '1,300 meters'" said the petitioner.
The petitioner said that the Nasri Riverine Forest of district Shaheed Benazir Abad (Nawab Shah) admeasured '3410 Acres' deforested and leas out for 'Bharia Town - Nawab Shah'. And in Karachi numbers of thousand Acers of Kathore Reserve Forests and green belts have been allotted to countrywide Forest grabber for 'Bahria Town - Karachi'.
Moreover, by facilitating to the countrywide Forests grabber, the Respondent provincial government have been exclusively established the 'Greater Karachi Water Supply Project (K-IV)' and a '100MWs Gas Power Plant' at Noori Abad on the cost of the 'Fundamental Rights' of the indigenous peoples of Kalachi/Karachi.
And '24877 Acers' of Forest Cover/Land of Khipro Reserve Forests Sanghar have been disposed of in colorful names of Leases. And the number of thousand Trees have been cut down and sold against the worth of millions of rupees under the nose of Forest department.
'23,531-5 Acers' of Forest Cover/Land officially documented by the concerning department before the "Public Vigilance Committee" under the headship of District & Sessions Judge, Matiari, that said Forest is being encroached by the political mafia in respective district.
Consisting on '5000 Acers' Keti Khyberani (Island) completely leased out for agricultural purposes; once it was a famous Wildlife Sanctuary for its unique characteristics, special Forests products and moreover the Wildlife species including Hog deer and many more; now it is completely leveled just to accommodate political influential and land grabbers as well; even not to fulfill so-called formalities of nominal payments of lease money.
And in Karachi a number of thousands shady Tress have been replaced to the non-environment friendly Conocarpus only for monetary gain by a political mafia and dumping of municipal waste on Mangrove Forests is evident particularly in Chashma, Fisheries, Ibrahim Hyderi, Kaka Pir, Machar Colony, Rehri, Sandspit and Younis Abad for reclamation purposes.