KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday suspended till further orders the operation of an administrative letter of the provincial government leasing out 6,300 acres of forest land in Badin and Sujawal districts to a private concern for farming.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Munib Akhtar also directed the secretary of the forest department, chief conservator, conservator of forests, divisional forest officer and SSP of Badin district to submit comments on the petition filed by MNA Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Shirazi against what he termed illegal allotment of forest land.

The petitioner said the chief minister had approved a summary on May 14 leasing out 6,300 acres of forest land to Badin Agro Development Farm, a private concern.

Subsequently, he said, the chief conservator issued a letter on May 30 leasing out the land to the private concern under the Agro Forestry Lease Policy of Sindh Forest Department for agricultural and fish farm purposes.

MNA Shirazi said the illegally leased out forest land was being used by the poor people living in the surrounding areas as grazing source for their cattle. Besides, he said, the forests on the leased land also produced timber that helped boost the country’s economy.

He stated in the petition that deforestation by allotting forest land to powerful influential persons including M/s Badin Agro Development Farm for agricultural and fish farm purpose would not only displace the poor people and force them to leave the places and livelihood but also cause loss of precious forest land.

The petitioner requested the court to declare illegal the allotment of forest land and suspend the operation of administrative letter leasing out land for farming.

The bench put off the matter to July 23 after preliminary hearing.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2014

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