Government looks for private investments in forests

South Punjab Forest Company woos businessmen for initiatives in forestry sector

Mariam Shafqat November 15, 2016

LAHORE: In an effort to reduce deforestation in Punjab, the South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC) has launched an awareness campaign to sensitise potential investors about business opportunities in the forestry sector.

The company in collaboration with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) organised an inception seminar at the LCCI office to urge businessmen to invest in the forestry sector for a sustainable future.

K-P forests lose 74% density, claim officials

“Forest-based investments can lead to tremendous growth and create opportunities that are essential for competing in an inter-connected world,” said LCCI President Abdul Basit in his welcome address. “The chamber will play its role in promoting this idea and advocates any policy solutions that drive economic growth, spur innovation and create jobs.”

SPFC CEO Tahir Rasheed presented a proposal on investment opportunities in forestry sector in South Punjab and informed the participants about the eco-regions of Pakistan.

According to a 2015 study by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Pakistan has a total area of 1,472,000 hectares of forest and the country witnessed deforestation at an alarming rate of 2.1% on average between 1990 and 2015.

The SPFC, Tahir said, aims to afforest 134,995 acres of allotted land in Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur divisions, which comes under the Punjab Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department.

“By promoting commercial forestry in the area, green jobs in rural areas will be created and logging pressure on existing forests will be reduced,” he said.

Tahir said sustainable forestry investments offered low-risk venture with high returns. “Sustainably farmed wood can be supplied to the national wood-based industry that will subsequently reduce dependence on imported wood, eventually reducing the budget deficit,” he claimed.

In the Question and Answer session, the LCCI members were apprehensive if the SPFC land might face threats from the timber mafia in the future. But the SPFC officers assured them that the organisation would ensure the land remained free from any encroachments and the wood mafia.

The seminar also aimed to incorporate the views of LCCI representatives to make the process inclusive that may later be incorporated in the upcoming feasibility study.

In his concluding remarks, LCCI Vice-President Nasir Hameed hoped the initiative would help bring a green revolution in the province as well as contribute towards the gross domestic product.

The public-sector SPFC has been set up with the aim to stimulate private-sector investments alongside public seed money to reduce deforestation in Punjab and to combine forest conservation with sustainable economic development. The investment objective of the company is to encourage the investment in assets that can be established and managed on an environmentally and socially sustainable basis.

The SPFC aims to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2015 for ‘Life on Land’, which focuses on managing forests sustainably, restoring degraded lands and combating desertification.

The company believes in long-term capital appreciation for partners and an attractive and sustainable income yield. In the future, the SPFC will seek investments in forestry projects that are or will be certified by a reputable forest management certification scheme.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2016.


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