The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government on Friday lifted a decade-old ban on transportation of thousands of feet of timber rotting in Diamer district. “The decision was taken in a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mehdi Shah at his office,” the G-B Forests and Wildlife Adviser Aftab Haider told journalists. He said that the cabinet also approved the creation of the post of G-B Chief Conservator Forests.
“The total timber lying in the valley is four million cubic feet of which two million cubic feet has been felled legally,” he said, adding that with the lifting of the ban, the legal timber would be allowed to be transported out of the G-B while transportation of illegal timber would be confined to G-B.
In an attempt to protect the forest reserves in the valley, the government in early 2000 placed a ban on the chopping of trees. The ban led to freezing of movement of the already chopped timber stock piled on either sides of the Karakoram Highway.
“It was a long-standing demand of the locals and we are pleased to come up to their expectations,” said the adviser who was accompanied by lawmakers from Diamer, including Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed, Health minister Gulbar Khan, Education minister Ali Madad Sher and Molana Sarwar.
Ahmed termed the lifting of the ban a step towards economic revolution in not only the Diamer valley but also in G-B. “Unlike the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, all the people of the Diamer valley have share in the timber so all would benefit from it,” he said.
Ahmed added the cabinet has also approved “forest working plan” that would be sent to the prime minister for approval. Under the Accession Deed signed in 1953 by Diamer community with Pakistan, the Diamer forests were private forests, with ownership rights belonging to the community. If the plan gets approval, the cutting of timber would become legal under certain conditions and thus stop illegal deforestation.
Health Minister Gulbar Khan said that the timber worth billions of rupees would have perished had the ban not lifted as it was lying under open sky and exposed to sun heat and rains.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.
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