ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government has sought guidelines from the Supreme Court in devising Agro Forestry Policy, 2019, by retrieving encroached forest lands in the province since a recent order of the Sindh High Court’s Sukkur bench is coming in its way to develop the forest policy.
“The Supreme Court is requested to issue guidelines regarding the Sukkur bench order which has been found to be an impediment for the new policy,” explained a report furnished before the apex court that had taken up a petition moved by Qazi Ali Athar, an environment attorney.
The petition had sought a restraining order against the Sindh government from introducing any scheme in the forest cover / land for housing schemes, townships, land distribution or land reforms or any other schemes or policies which amounted to deforestation or land possession.
The court was also asked in the petition to declare all the forest lands of Sindh i.e. 2,858,748 acres as national assets and protected zone besides the forest cover should never be allowed to deplete in any circumstances. Therefore all the allotted or leased forest lands should be cancelled and vacated from all kinds of land grabbers through non-discriminated operation, the petition had pleaded.
Submitted by the office of chief conservator forests, Sindh, a fresh report explained that the new policy has also reached the office of the chief minister and has been delayed due to high court order.
A source told Dawn that the Sukkur bench order of Jan 30, 2019, had held that the forest lands in Sindh should remain forest and therefore could not be leased out for any agriculture purpose.
But the report explained that without involving the local community, which can only be done through agro farming or leasing out lands to locals, the forest development process was not possible.
After the last order of the apex court, the forest department has retrieved 16,421 acres after which the total area of the forest in its possession has become 399,343 acres.
The report contended that the forest land retrieval process for the remaining task contains areas of illegal allotment and encroachments. The retrieval activities is continuing but with almost bare hands as routine with very meager funds that still had to be received by the department.
Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2019