149,235 acres of forest land under illegal occupation

Published: November 23, 2018
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PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS/FILE

PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS/FILE

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, while presenting startling figures about encroachments on forest land in the province, informed the Sindh Assembly on Thursday that around 149,235 acres of land have been illegally occupied by influential persons over the last five years.

The chief minister made this revelation during the question-answer session in the Sindh Assembly, in which he was asked about the performance of the forest and wildlife department. Since the government has not appointed a minister for the department, the CM had to respond to the queries.

During the session on Thursday, Works and Services minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah read the answers on behalf of the chief minister. Giving district-wise details of the encroachments on precious forest land, the CM’s response revealed that Dadu district topped the list in this regard, with 27,566 acres of land illegally occupied during the last five years, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party’s hometown, Benazirabad, where 24,161 acres were under the control of influential persons. Moreover, 23,715 acres have been occupied in Sukkur, 19,271 acres in Hyderabad, 12,238 acres in Larkana, 17,477 acres in Khairpur and 7,879 acres in Kandhkot.

SC orders provinces to reclaim ‘encroached land’

Plan of action

With regard to the department’s performance and government’s action against the encroachments, the chief minister responded, “In pursuance of a meeting held on July 28, 2018, a comprehensive campaign has been launched against encroachers with the assistance of Rangers, police and district administration. After re
peated actions, we have so far vacated around 15,733 acres.”

Responding to a question by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Rabistan Khan regarding forest land encroached in Thatta, the CM said, “Around 4699 acres are encroached in Thatta, of which we have recovered 1,335 acres. The campaign is in full swing against the land mafia.”

With regard to mangrove forests, the chief minister said that his government has taken serious steps for the protection and rehabilitation of such forest cover.

“The land images analysed by SUPARCO in 2009 determined that mangroves cover an area over 107,640 hectares. Since then, around 90,000 hectares have been added as new mangrove forests in Indus Delta through different schemes started by the Sindh government.” Consequently, according to the chief minister, the area of Indus Delta under mangrove forests has almost doubled.

Speaking on the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Central City Park, which was supposed to be built in Benazirabad but has now been
shelved, the CM said the scheme was proposed in 2017-18, at an estimated cost of Rs150 million, but the district administration had failed to find land for the project. The scheme has now been dropped from the current annual development programme.

When asked about the number of falcons brought into Sindh from other countries between January 1, 2018, and March 31, 2018, he said, “A total of 85 falcons were brought into Sindh, mostly from Qatar.” These falcons are brought to Sindh by Qatdri princes and their family members to hunt rare bird species.

On the other hand, Syed Nasir Shah, during the cross-questions, informed the House that the government intends to start a forestation drive and will transplant trees spreading over 50,000 kilometers. “The CM has already placed a ban on cutting of trees. We want to make our province green.”

Land grabbers issued ‘red notices’

The discussion on an adjournment motion moved by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan parliamentary leader, Kanwar Naveed Jameel, regarding the ‘water crisis’ in Karachi was on the agenda, but was deferred till today (Friday).

On a point of order, Jameel, however, raised the issue of massive discrepancies in the last census exercise. “The population of Karachi has been deliberately shown less for political motives. I want to ask the Sindh government what it discussed in the Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting.” Responding to him, Minister for Excise and Taxation and Parliamentary Affairs, Mukesh Kumar Chawla, said, “Lets us check with the chief minister and get back to you.”

After discussions on other issues on the agenda, the Speaker adjourned the session till Friday.

Earlier, as the session started, lawmakers belonging to different political parties paid rich tribute to renowned Urdu writer and activist, Fahmida Riaz.

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