ISLAMABAD: The environment wing of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) has imposed a fine on Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) for cutting down 80 trees.

According to a document available with Dawn, the environment wing imposed the fine amounting to Rs147,550 on the university for chopping down 80 trees on the campus.

In August, the AIOU felled 65 eucalyptus, five sheesham and six popular trees.

Initially, the MCI had worked out a fine amounting to Rs354,000 fine, but later the corporation reduced it to Rs147,550 under section 68 of Forest Act. The fine was against the name of gardener Zahid Mujeed.

However, the step of imposing fine on a gardener raised several questions as how could a low scale employee cut down 80 trees on his own. According to MCI’s document, the fine has been paid.

Meanwhile, sources in the university said logs of most of the chopped trees were taken out of the university by a private contractor.

MCI’s Director Environment Mohammad Irshad confirmed to Dawn that the university was fined.

When asked as to why the fine was lowered to Rs147,550 when initially it had been worked out at Rs354,000, an MCI official said initially the fine was calculated against all 80 chopped trees, but later five sheesham trees and one shahtoot tree were excluded as they had been confiscated by the environment wing.

“After imposing the fine, we have handed the chopped down trees to the university and it [university] is now responsible to deal with the wood. However, we have confiscated five sheesham trees, which we are planning to use for official work such as making signboards for trails 1 and 5,” said an MCI official.

Sources said AIOU did not acquire permission from the corporation’s environment wing before felling the trees.

AIOU spokesperson Javed Akhtar, through a written response, following the cutting down of trees had told Dawn: “Actually there was a jungle of wild mulberry and eucalyptus trees which had become a safe haven for wild boars and porcupines. The university plans to clean this area to establish a botanical garden for educational purposes, enabling the students to conduct research. Fruit and valuable plants are to be planted at this place. These include olive plants, moringa plants, kachnar, cassia fistula, plum, pear, apricot, fig, arjan etc.”

He had said the university would plant around 3,000 plants in the botanical garden to be set up in the area.

The university’s department of agriculture sciences has already planted 1,500 plants under the national plantation drive.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2019