LAHORE: In order to increase forest cover and promote sustainable businesses, the South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC) will offer 99,077 acres of land to prospective investors for the next 15 years.
This was revealed by SPFC Chairman Awais Leghari who was addressing the media on Monday. The company, under the proposal titled Afforestation Projects of SPFC in South Punjab under Public Private Partnership (PPP) Mode, has allocated land in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Muzzafargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan districts for commercial forestry and range management.
For this purpose, the SPFC has already invited bidders to submit technical and financial proposals for afforestation in South Punjab on a build-operate-transfer basis.
The chairman said the project would help meet international goals to combat climate change. Sharing details of the project, he said Pakistan was witnessing one of the highest rates of deforestation. “Therefore, it is imperative to promote the commercial forestry so that nationwide wood-based demand could be met sustainably and pressure on natural forests is reduced,” Leghari added.
Stepping towards sustainable afforestation
He said the initiative was aimed at controlling deforestation and carbon emissions in the country, which had proven to be a challenging task for policymakers. The project was a positive effort in curbing the over-use and destruction of natural forests, he added.
“It can become a commercially viable solution for many human needs and can create job opportunities if it is done with proper planning. It will also help local businesses with an increased supply of its products and benefit the local economy without harming the balance of nature.”
According to facts and figures provided by SPFC, Pakistan has suffered massive deforestation between 1990 and 2015. The country lost an average of 42,000 hectors per year and this, on aggregate, was more than 40% of its forest cover.
The chairman said that the project was investor-friendly and they firmly believed it would contribute to the GDP of the country. He added the project would not cost the exchequer anything since capital investment for the transformation of lands would be done by private investors.
He said that SPFC intended to provide land to private investors to set up forests for a certain period of time which would be enough for them to recover their investments and earn reasonable profits thereon.
Speaking on the occasion, SPFC CEO Tahir Rasheed said deforestation and forest degradation account for 20% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
“With climate change becoming a serious threat to the planet, forest cover must be increased. Through this initiative, thousands of acres of land will be reclaimed through afforestation and rangeland management activities.”
Forests get a whopping Rs2 billion in budget
Rasheed said the organisation has made it mandatory to allocate 25% of its share of land for indigenous tree species, which would not be felled during the 15-year concession period and hopefully yield numerous environmental and socioeconomic benefits. For the purpose, a detailed environmental impact assessment has also been carried out to ensure only ecologically stable species are planted, he added.
The CEO said through the initiative, around 15,000 jobs would be created in Southern Punjab. He urged investors to apply for the opportunity at the earliest as the deadline for submitting proposals was 15 September.
According to SPFC, deforestation has taken place for infrastructure, industries, mining, oil and gas exploration and thermal power plants.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2017.
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