KARACHI: More than 30,220 trees have been felled illegally in Sindh with over Rs5.1 million fine recovered from the culprits involved in the practice between 2009 and 2013, the provincial assembly was informed on Monday.
Parliamentary secretary of the forest department Nasir Shah provided the information while responding to questions of lawmakers during the question hour that pertained to the forest department in the absence of Forest Minister Gayan Chand.
It has been observed that the minister regularly attends assembly sessions but usually does not come to the house on the day when questions related to the forest ministry are to be taken up.
The Monday assembly session began over an hour and 55 minutes behind the scheduled time of 10am as mentioned in the order of the day. The proceedings also did not follow the order the day as speeches which started before the question hour consumed nearly two hours. When the question hour did eventually begin, Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) legislator Nusrat Seher Abbasi objected to this irregularity. But Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who was presiding over the session, did not listen to her point and asked her to raise her question.The question regarding tree plantation could not be taken up because Mutahhida Qaumi Movement legislator Sabir Hussain, who had asked it, was not present in the house after his party walked out from the assembly.
Ms Abbasi then sought the number of cases registered against those involved in illegal felling of trees. The parliamentary secretary of the forest department informed the house that 755 First Offence Reports (FORs) and 65 First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered.
Responding to another question regarding fines imposed on the culprits, he said the fine ranged between Rs1,000 and Rs10,000 per tree depending on type of trees. The information provided in writing by Mr Shah, however, shows 30,220 trees being illegally cut and Rs5.1 million recovered as fine. A simple calculation shows that the fine comes to around Rs172 per tree on an average.
In reply to yet another question by the PML-F lawmaker, Mr Shah said forests were open property and prone to damage by local people due to various reasons including growing poverty. He said the culprits were punished under the Forests Act, 1927, which only prescribed fines.
He said a new law was being formulated in which not only fines for illegal cutting of trees would be increased but prison terms would also be introduced for the culprits.
Referring to some countries where up to 14 years sentence was given for illegal felling of trees, Speaker Durrani suggested to the house that similarly harsh punishment could be considered in the new legislation.
In response to another question, Mr Shah said a major reason affecting mangrove forests in the Indus delta was less quantity of freshwater flowing through the Indus river.
Besides the less quantity of freshwater, increasing volume of pollution and felling, owing to fuel shortages, also contributed towards decreasing mangrove forest, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Shafi Jamote added.The department with the collaboration of the federal climate change ministry and the Sindh coastal community development project, which was sponsored by the Sindh coastal community development authority, also established a world record by planning 847,275 mangrove saplings at Kharo Chhan in Thatta district on June 22, 2013.
However, the answer provided in writing stated that 16.33 million saplings — 8.3 million in spring and eight million in monsoon — had been planted during 2013.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2014