Trees being chopped down in spite of SC order, ban, Senate told
By: Mumtaz Alvi
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Climate Change Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan surprised the legislators when he informed the Senate on Friday that the government had imposed a ban on cutting of all kinds of trees way back in September 1993 but massive felling of trees was on since then, having at adverse impact on the environment.
Replying to a question by Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, the minister during the question hour said that trees continued to be cut in massive numbers in all the four provinces and the situation aggravated after the 18th Amendment, which gave resources to the respective provinces and they took no steps to ensure the ban on tree cutting.
Rana Saeed called upon the provincial governments to take the responsibility of looking after the wealth of green trees for it was now their prerogative under the landmark legislation.
The minister said that his ministry was in the process of framing a new policy and planned to take the provinces on board on this in order to improve the situation with regard to fast dwindling number of trees across Pakistan, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.
He continued that under the garb of road dualisation and expansion of canals in Punjab, a large number of trees were cut down in recent years and the federal government could not do anything to stop the practice.
“Trees are the only source of oxygen. Therefore, there is a dire need to increase their number that is already alarmingly lesser than what is desired by the experts. But what we are seeing is in total contrast to it,” he maintained.
He pointed out in the face of pressure from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, for a limited period, lifting of 6 million feet wood, lying for years was allowed. However, they managed to lift only 3.3 million feet wood.
Now again, despite the ban, they had reports that 4 million-feet wood had been accumulated worth Rs7 billion. The minister contended that there was a proposal to seize the wood and make payment to Gilgit-Baltistan. He agreed to a proposal by Senator Shahi Syed that a board be constituted to grant NoC regarding trees cutting or sale of wood.
Senator Aitzaz Ahsan pointed out that under the pretext of Lahore canal widening, trees were cut, which was not only a violation of the ban imposed in 1993 but also of the Supreme Court order in this connection.
Meanwhile, answering a question by Senator Begum Najma Hameed, Minister of Communications Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan told the House that his ministry wanted to process as many as eight toll plazas for bidding, but every time it was about to be completed, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) halted it raising objections.
The minister continued they have sought help from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Assembly’s Standing Committee concerned, pointing out how detrimental it was for the authority in terms of loss of millions of (rupees) revenues on bidding of the plazas.
Regarding a supplementary by Kamil Ali Agha, the minister sought fresh question to answer it. The senator had asked about names of the ‘qabza group’, occupying NHA’s toll plazas. He repeated the question after failing to get answer to it.
The minister informed the House that the Motorway Police was losing charm because of low salaries and lesser than required uniformed staff. He noted the difference was now hardly of Rs200-300 as compared to other police departments salaries.
He said 50-60 per cent staffers of the Motorway Police wanted to leave their job and looked for better opportunities.
He continued they had approached various fora including the Finance Ministry for some incentives to boost the morale of the police and to make the department attractive again but so far could not succeed in getting additional allocation on this count.