Sindh CM announces to turn 20,000 acres of land into forests

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has directed forest department to develop two separate blocks of forests each one spreading over an area of 10,000 acres near Karachi and Hyderabad, this would help to control environmental pollution and improve overall environmental condition in both the big cities of the province.

He issued these directives while presiding over a meeting of Forest Department at the CM House on Friday. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon, Principal Secretary to CM Sohail Rajput, Secretary Forest & Wildlife Asif Hyder Shah, chief conservators and other concerted officers.

The chief minister said that huge lands of forest department are lying barren near Karachi and Hyderabad. “These both cities are facing environmental pollution, therefore two separate blocks of forest may be developed near them,” he said and added each block must be spread over an area of 10,000 acres and they should be watered through drip irrigation system.

CM Minister directed Sindh Forest Department to complete both forest block of Karachi and Hyderabad in next three. The Karachi Forest Block would be constructed near newly constructed Defense Housing Authority (HDA) City on main Superhighway, while Hyderabad Forest Block would be constructed on Hyderabad Bypass.

Giving presentation to the chief minister, secretary forest Asif Hyder Shah claimed that ‘The total forest land in the province of Sindh is 3.3 million acres which come to 10 percent of Sindh’s surface area,” quoted the official handout issued by CM House, adding that the forest includes mangroves or coastal forests, barrage area agricultural sustainability through trees/forestry, Riverine forests and Irrigation Plantation (IP) and Range Lands – desert-trees as tools for drought management.

However, on November 16, 2017, Syed Asif Haider Shah submitted a report ‘Fading forest of Sindh’ in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in which Shah stated that ‘Sindh has lost 80 percent of its forest cover since 1971’ and at present Sindh has only ‘100,000 acres, which is less than 0.3pc of the entire surface area’. He furter said in the report that “the forest department covered 10 per cent of the total area of the province, with 0.3 per cent actual forest cover, which was much less than the four per cent international requirement,”. However, since November 2017, the forest cover has increased from 0.3 percent to 10 percent.

Shah showed a base map of 140,914 square kilometers forests which include Irrigation Plantation over an area of 202,622 acres, Riverine Forests over 595,511 acres, Range Lands over 1,129,000 acres and mangroves of 1,500,000 acres.

Talking about the achievements of forest department, Asif Shah claimed that mangroves have been planted over area of 175,000 acres during the last five years. “We broke the Guinness world Record of planting trees in one day in 2009 and again set a new record by planting 847275 in 2013. On this the chief minister gave him new target of planting one million mangroves in March. “I would personally launch the drive on March 23,” the chief minister said.

Giving details of major achievements of the forest department during 2017-18, the Secretary forest said that 21,000 acres or 8.92 million mangrove plants were planted in six month, another 21,000 acres would be planted in June 2018 and in order protect the newly plants a community watch and ward system has been developed. He added that natural regeneration of about 180 to 200 million plants have been made.

The chief minister was told that Riverine Forests over 5,000 acres or 100 million seeds have been broadcasted. New plantation (IP) has been made over 1000 acres which come to 700,000 plants. 12 million container plants in the nurseries have also been developed. The forest department has also carried out Linear plantation over area of 400 kms.

The chief minister directed the secretary forest to issue notice to the Lessees who have violated lease conditions. He also directed him to remove encroachment from the land of forest.

Published in Daily Times, January 20th 2018.