PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Tuesday formed another committee to examine issues related to Makhniyal forests in Haripur tehsil, especially encroachments and illegal tree felling, and asked it to produce its report within a month.

The development came during a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan here, where the participants reviewed the issues pertaining to Makhniyal area due to encroachments in designated forests.

According to an official statement issued here, the commissioner of Hazara division will head the committee tasked with coming up with a way forward for the issues related to the forests.

The participants decided that the relevant officials would take necessary steps for framing draft legislation on effective and better management of Guzara forests in the province.

CM seeks report within a month

The meeting was informed that all kinds of construction activities in the vicinity of Makhniyal forests had been banned, while mutations and fards for the sale and purchase of land in the area were not being issued. Also, ‘zoning’ will be carried out in Makhniyal forests to ensure protection of forests.

The chief minister told the meeting about the ban on construction activities in Makhniyal forests at preservation of the region’s pristine beauty.

He directed the commissioner of Hazara division to come up with proposals regarding relaxation of ban on issuance of mutations for the sale and purchase of land.

In 2020, an inquiry committee in its report had declared that huge swathes of endangered forests had been illegally turned into commercial and residential schemes by land developers in Makhniyal area of Haripur tehsil of Hazara division.

Makhniyal sub-division of Haripur is adjacent to Islamabad’s Margalla Hills and remained a hub of official functions for the Billion Tree Tsunami, the PTI government’s flagship afforestation project.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and other international dignitaries had visited Makhniyalfor plantation activities, but land encroachment in the designated Guzara forests went unnoticed.

The committee, in a report submitted to the chief secretary for action, had fixed responsibility on the forestry department senior officials for the facilitation of land developers to illegally fell trees and encroach on the designated forests of Makhniyal sub-division.

It added that encroachment in Makhniyal forests were determined with the help of Geographic Information System, field visits by the three members of the inquiry committee.

The official documents reveal that land developers had illegally occupied approximately 15.75 hectares (38.92 acres) of forest covered area, besides illicit felling of conifer trees.

The report says the committee members thoroughly checked properties, recorded observations and took GIS coordinates following which the field data was processed in the GIS laboratory of Forestry, Planning and Monitoring Circle in Peshawar on the basis of topographic maps.

The committee had identified total six land developers, who had encroached on the designated forests in Makhniyal. A developer in the name of Capital Hill was alleged to approximately encroached on 2.6 hectares in Kotla Guzara forests, Haider Property on 0.45 hectares in Hariala, Haroon Private Land on 0.4 hectares in Nilan Bhotu reserved forests, Highland Hotel New Property on 3.4 hectares in Kotla Guzara forests, New Monal on 8.5 hectares in Kotla Guzara forests and Zara Lodge encroached on 0.4 hectares in Firozpur Reserve forests.

In Aug, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had banned all types of construction in the area. He had also ordered a ban on mutations and registries of lands in Makhniyal forest areas until the completion of classification and demarcation of those forests.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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