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Solar Park project: Cholistan’s precious trees being illegally sold

Updated October 10, 2015

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It is learnt that these contractors have sold these ‘keekar’ trees in the open market during the last one month or so.  — Photo Courtesy: Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd
It is learnt that these contractors have sold these ‘keekar’ trees in the open market during the last one month or so. — Photo Courtesy: Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd

BAHAWALPUR: Contractors hired by a foreign company for the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park (QASP) project are allegedly making a fast buck by disposing of trees worth millions of rupees from the vast area.

It is learnt that these contractors have sold these ‘keekar’ trees in the open market during the last one month or so.

Cholistan’s thousands of acre land having countless trees had been transferred under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s directive by the Cholistan Development Authority (CDA) Bahawalpur to the Punjab Energy Department at the launch of the 1,000 megawatt QASP in 2013.

In the first phase, a 100MW unit of the project was commissioned in an area of 500 acres of reserved land this past May by the prime minister.

The Cholistan land had to be added to the project and the energy department entrusted this task to a foreign company which further gave a contract to some persons to clear the desert area off the existing hundreds of thousands of trees for installation of solar panels.

Sources said the contractors had started removing trees from the park area more than a month ago and already sold many of these in the market rather than their auction by the energy department. They loaded trees onto tractor-trolleys at night and after seeking gate passes from the exit points managed to dispose of these, earning millions.

Bahawalpur District Coordination Officer Imran Sikandar told Dawn that the district revenue department had nothing to do with the land where trees were illegally being removed. The Cholistan Development Authority or the Punjab Energy Department could better tell about it, he said.

CDA Managing Director Naeem Bokhari could not be contacted as he is abroad these days, while CDA Director Rana Shahid Nadeem was busy in a meeting in Lahore and did not respond.

Conservator Forests Bahawalpur Division Faisal Haroon and DFO Qazi Khalid of Lal Sohanra National Park, from where the said land of solar park had been slashed, told this correspondent that it was not within their purview to check the alleged sale of trees from the solar park.

Bahawalpur District Police Officer Sarfraz Ahmad Falki said he would check it from the SP posted in the solar park.

Punjab Energy Department Secretary Asad Gilani said the issue was not in his knowledge but he would probe the complaint.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2015

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