CHAKWAL: Despite a stay order by the Lahore High Court (LHC), the Punjab government could not get the work on a road in the Salt Range stopped, Dawn has learnt.
Having a support of a member of the National Assembly, Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) recently started work on 11.83 km-long road from Khokar Zer to Darialah Kahoon villages located on the right and left fringes of Chumbi-Surla Wildlife Sanctuary.
After the issue was highlighted, members of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) filed a petition in the Lahore High Court which issued a stay order on June 13.
“In its order the court directed the Punjab chief secretary to get the work stopped,” Advocate Amna Warsi, the counsel for the petitioner, told Dawn.
According to the order, (Dawn holds a copy of the order), the court also asked the petitioner to hold a meeting with Secretary Forest on the issue and directed the officials concerned to come up with their reply on June 25.
But despite the court order, the Punjab government is yet to get the work stopped. “We have not received any stay order and we are continuing our work”, contractor Chaudhry Tariq said while talking to Dawn.
MNA Tahir Iqbal who had been Federal Minister for Environment during Musharraf Government was of the view that once the road was constructed, it would reduce the distance between the villages of Kahoon valley and Chakwal city by travel 10 to 15 kilometers.
But he could not get NOC from Forest Department as it demanded Rs2.9 million for the land it would surrender.
But one aspect of the issue is related to Wildlife Department.
According to Wildlife Act, no construction could be made in a wildlife sanctuary and any person who dares violate this law can face up to five years imprisonment.
The Chumbi-Surla Sanctuary having an area of 12,180 acres is known as a safe haven for Punjabi Urial, Partridges and endangered pangolin along with many other animals and birds.
But MNA Tahir Iqbal says as, “I know the importance of wildlife but an Urial could not be preferred over human being.”
However, a concerned official of Wildlife Department said westerners did not compromise on the protection of wildlife, but here the people of the area and their representative in the National Assembly were bent upon shoving the Urial into extinction.
“It is a great honour for Pakistan that it has a unique specie of Punjabi Urial, which is found nowhere else in the world but only in Salt Range,” says a member of WWF.
He said that the construction of Motorway first disturbed the habitat of Urial but after the Punjab government declared an area of 12,180 acres as a Wildlife Sanctuary the population of Urial witnessed a considerable increase.
“If this road is constructed by dissecting the sanctuary the Urial could be wiped out from Pakistan,” he warned.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014