ISLAMABAD: A four-member committee has been formed to fix the responsibility for cutting of hundreds of trees around the building of Radio Pakistan, Rawalpindi.

The committee was formed after PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui raised the issue in a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday. Members of the committee were informed that nearly 1,000 ten to 20 feet small wild bushes, 500 paper mulberry besides other species were cut down.

Information Secretary Shahera Shahid said that the committee would be headed by joint secretary of the ministry. Ministry of Environment Director Naeem Ashraf Raja, deputy director of Environmental Protection Agency and divisional forest officer of the Forest Division (South) will be technical members of the committee. They have been asked to submit a report by June 30.

According to the notification, the number of trees cut down, types, ages and prices according to their market value will be ascertained. Senator Siddiqui, who is a member of the committee said in the previous committee meeting held on June 1, the ministry was asked to submit its report within seven days with the help of relevant agencies. However, even after 22 days, there was no progress on this issue.

Nonetheless, Minister for Information Maryam Aurangzeb said that the matter would be fully investigated and strict action would be taken against those responsible.

Chairman of the committee Senator Faisal Javed said answers to the 10 questions raised by Senator Siddiqui should be included in the report. Some of the questions are: whether the approval of Ministry of Information was sought before the trees were cut down, which authority gave them permission to do so, who decided that these trees had become useless and they should be cut down, whether permission was obtained from any environmental protection agency and on whose orders was the cutting process stopped.

“It may be recalled that earlier this year, hundreds of trees of Radio Pakistan Rawalpindi were cut down and auctioned for a meagre amount of Rs700,000. Radio officials said that the trees were cut and auctioned due to a financial crisis,” said Senator Siddiqui.

Talking to Dawn, Senator Siddiqui said if the standing committee and the Ministry of Information did not show seriousness on the matter, he would take up the issue at other forums.

He said that a similar exercise was carried out at the Radio station in Peshawar, where 2,500 trees were cut. “These trees were planted to camouflage the radio stations, which are sensitive assets,” he said.

Senator Naseema Ehsan also protested against the cutting of trees and suggested that a special committee should be set up to investigate the matter.

In a written reply on the matter, Ministry of Information has maintained that matured, aged, dried, fallen and unwanted trees, obstructing the feeder lines, damaging building structure, boundary walls, causing security concerns, at different units in the past were cut as a routine practice.

Auctioning of the trees was one of the options for revenue generation to bridge the budgetary shortfall.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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