G-B timber movement: Ministry chops up logging policy

Published: May 6, 2013

Rahman said the timber policy gives little or no benefit to the local communities except destroying the forests and benefiting the contractors. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: While conveying the reservations of environmentalists on the recently notified timber movement policy, the Ministry of Climate Change has forwarded a summary to the Cabinet Division secretary to revoke the policy.

The policy, which was notified by the G-B Council and approved by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on his final day in office, allows for the transportation of around four million cubic feet (cft) of timber from Diamer in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) to others parts of the country.

Environmentalists fear the policy will lead to rapid deforestation in Diamer. In the absence of strict and scientific mechanisms to monitor the illegal felling of timber, environmentalists say forest contractors will cut down more trees illegally to replace those already transported.

In an April meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change, the ministry’s secretary Muhammad Ali Gardezi said that he would request the cabinet secretary to reverse the policy, citing the concerns of environmentalists and the risk presented to Pakistan’s international commitments on deforestation.

A ministry official requesting anonymity confirmed that the summary had been forwarded to the cabinet secretary and a reply from the Cabinet Division was expected soon.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Islamabad — such as the Sustainable Development Partnership Institute (SDPI), Akhtar Hameed Khan Resource Centre (AHKRC) and the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (HWF) — have been campaigning against the harmful effects of the timber movement policy.

“This is a continuation of really poor governance on behalf of the government of Pakistan and the G-B government,” Dr Anisur Rahman, chief executive officer of the HWF, said. “It is a collaboration to denude our forests and take them to such a stage where they will not be recoverable.”

The HWF has also written a letter to the G-B Supreme Appellate Court asking it to take note of the policy’s effects. Rahman said that the HWF was also planning to send a similar letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Rahman said the timber policy gives little or no benefit to the local communities except destroying the forests and benefiting the contractors.

“If the timber is about to rot, it should be given to the local communities on cheap rates so that they do not have to cut more trees for firewood,” Rahman said.

“The forest that has been cut cannot be brought back,” he said. “It is a complete loss.”

It is worth noting here that the policy lifted a decades-old ban on the transportation of timber from Diamer to the rest of the country. In addition to the legally-cut timber, which locals claimed had begun to rot, the policy also stated that around 1.9 million cft of illegally cut timber could be transported down the country after contractors pay a fine that varies depending on the type of trees.

However, environmental activists allege that the corrupt forest officers and contractors will collude to cut more trees illegally and easily transport them outside the region because of the existing policy.

Chilas native Khan Muhammad Qureshi, who is trying to raise awareness about deforestation in Islamabad and Diamer, claims the contractors have raised the rates they pay locals for illegally cutting timber to Rs60 from Rs25 to pacify them, as Diamer forests are legally the property of the local communities.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Fakhri
    May 8, 2013 - 10:21AM

    I wonder if there will be any action taken by the interim government, finger crossed lets see if PTI can take up this matter

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  • Shaikh
    May 8, 2013 - 10:24AM

    I would reckon the print media is the lone cursader to keep this alive. I propose that we talk to the candidates for the forthcomign elections

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  • Vector
    May 8, 2013 - 10:34AM

    One way to speak with concrete proof of what happened on ground is to compare satellite images of the deforestation done before and after the orders to cut 4 million trees from the forests of gilgit Baltistan. Only then the decsion makers could be convinced. though this is expensive and needs real professional touch.

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  • Aslam PTI
    May 8, 2013 - 10:37AM

    PTI has an environmental manifesto but deforestation is not conspicuous yet there is room to interact and devise a policy based on truth and ground reality

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  • PTI lovers
    May 8, 2013 - 10:43AM

    PTI is the only party in politics that will take up this matter. If you want to continue with past timber cutting polies just look at the decisions taken by those who took their turns in office, all past Ministers headig the GB Council took the same decsion of “Timber Release for one Time only” as has been done this time. PML N Ministers like Maj Tahir Iqbal and PML Q’ Makhdum did the same as was doen by all in the Martial law era. Mr Watoo in PPP government did the same. This will conuinue till the last tree is cut and the last birds’ nest is chopped. Unless you vote for PTI

    this time due to media and PTI pressure things move slowly

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  • Afifa PPP Lovers
    May 8, 2013 - 8:51PM

    It is unfair to start political scoring for PTI on this provincial matter. Sindh and Punjab provinces have the cards to play. If played well both provinces can earn a few hundred million $ a tax on illegal timber. Lets see who bells the cat when none of mine (PPP) and yours PTI listens. ALl await to be in government and get their share form the bounty at last

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  • Fakhri
    May 9, 2013 - 11:20PM

    To every problem there is a solution>
    For this one the civil society must work on 3 fronts

    front 1 If courts do note take suo moto then a petition must be filed in suprme court

    front 2 Environmental groups in Punjab and Sindh and KPK to file cases in their respective high courts to force their provincial forest department to levy tax on any timber coming from this loot and rape of forest

    front 3 Satellite maps analysis by professionals will solve this riddle

    front 4 pressure groups must stand up after the election fever is over
    Lo the bureaucracy of Gilgit forest department must note that they cannot absolve from their responsibility because the fraud summary was initialed by secretary forests. Ex PM is innocent he just approved what was proposed

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