Concern over planting eucalyptus under Green Pakistan
ISLAMABAD – A parliamentary committee Tuesday observed that eucalyptus is being planted under Green Pakistan Programme which is consuming 12 per cent of underground water, saying section 144 should be imposed to root out the trees.
“In the market, Eucalyptus plants are being sold at Rs3 per sapling while in under Green Pakistan programme it is being purchased for Rs13 per plant,” Senator Shamim Afridi said this while presiding over the meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources.
Senator Afridi said: “On the surface we are making green Pakistan while underground we are making dry Pakistan”. The environmentalists had earlier warned that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government plantation of 50 per cent Eucalyptus under its Billion Tree Tsunami Programme will cause water shortage and threaten the bio-diversity.
He said that eucalyptus was planted on a vast area which is drinking the underground water resources. Instead of water conservation schemes, the government is planting eucalyptus which is drinking 12 per cent of underground water, senator Afridi claimed.”
The government should launch conservation of water schemes and is required to take steps to root out eucalyptus to save the water,” he maintained. Deputy Commissioner and public representatives should impose section 144 to root out eucalyptus tree. “Eucalyptus was gifted to Pakistan by US and we have to get rid of it to save our environment and water resources,” Senator Shamim Afridi said. He said that eucalyptus should be planted only in the waterlogged areas.
The committee also expressed serious concerns regarding delay in payment of compensation amount to the affectees of Mirani Dam and directed Chief Secretary Balochistan and Secretary Irrigation, Revenue and Finance to be present in the next meeting. The committee was told that a total amount of Rs3500 million was to be paid in compensation with half share each of federal and Balochistan government and even after twelve years of the incident many affectees are still living in slums and haven’t been compensated for the loss in 2007 floods in Makran Division.
The Mirani Dam was completed in June 2007 at normal reservoir capacity prepared for normal flood level but the area faced a super flood only one month after the completion of the project and hence the area experienced devastating results for land, houses, people, gardens and livestock.
The Committee was told that the compensation has been made to 1634 affectees out of a total of 2192 affectees and the people left are mostly those whose gardens and plantations were destroyed. The officials said that the prices have gone up over the years and compensation money should also be proportionate. The Committee stressed on the need to learn lessons from this disaster and having efficiently drawn plans of action.
The Committee also discussed the matter of inclusion of sewerage water into the water being released from Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project. The CEO NJHPC gave a detailed briefing on the matter and told the Committee that the environmental impact study was conducted and measurements were considered that how much outflow of water will be able to dilute the sewerage input in the water.
The committee also expressed strong displeasure at the delay in finalisation of PC-1 and tendering process of Naulong Dam in Jhal Magsi, Balochistan since it was first initiated in 2009. It was told that the project PC-1 has been prepared by WAPDA at an estimate of 28 billion and tendering will start soon. The project will be funded 20 per cent by PSDP and 80 per cent by ADP. The Committee noted that with delay the price of project as well as compensation to affectees will keep increasing.
The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Shamim Afridi at the Parliament House and was attended among others by Senators Waleed Iqbal, Syed Sabir Shah, Agha Shahzeb Durrani, Sana Jamali, Yousaf Badini, Gianchand, Joint Secretary Water Resources, CEO Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project Company (NJHPC), and officials from Planning Commission, Balochistan Government and WAPDA.