Deforestation continues to be a major concern in Gilgit-Baltistan

Senate body to discuss policy for transportation of timber down cou.

Our Correspondent April 08, 2013
Logs waiting to be shipped off down country. PHOTO: FILE


The government’s term in office may officially be over, but its policies continue to have an overbearing influence on current issues.

One such government policy is expected to come under fire on April 8, when the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change will be discussing deforestation.

Muhammad Khan Qureshi has been actively campaigning in his native Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan’s (G-B) Diamer district for the protection of forests, which he says are facing a renewed threat to their existence.

This threat emanates from a policy approved by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on March 15 --- a day before his term in office expired --- which demanded the disposal of legally and illegally cut timber from Diamer.

The Diamer forests are owned by the local communities under an accession deal signed by the Government of Pakistan in 1952. They are managed, however, by the G-B Council, whose chairmanship is held by the prime minister.

The notification, which has allowed around 4 million cubic feet of timber to be transported from G-B to other parts of the country, had essentially lifted a ban timber movement from G-B placed in 1993 to prevent deforestation.

Qureshi argues that the policy plays into the hands of timber smugglers, who will continue to exploit the forests.

The policy permits harvesting, subject to the approval of a Forest Work Plan submitted by the G-B Forest Department and demands that forest guards control the illegal cutting of trees in far flung areas.

However, Qureshi alleges that the forest guards are already in the pockets of influential timber smugglers, which would make it difficult to monitor timber leaving G-B.

The local communities sell wood through auctions in which only certain trees are marked for cutting. The volume of trees which are felled is recorded by forest officers, while communities get royalties on the timber’s market price.

But timber contractors, in connivance with forest guards, also cut trees illegally, and the local communities are kept at bay by being paid an unfairly low fixed rate for the timber volume, Qureshi said.

“Timber smugglers only pay around Rs25 per cubic foot to the local forest owners and then go and sell the same timber for anywhere between Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 per cubic foot. The smugglers connive with the local forest guards to register the illegal timber in official records,” he alleged.

In the book “Changing Perspectives on Forest Policy”, writers Javed Ahmed and Fawad Mahmood suggest that the local communities often opt for this fixed-rate payment from the timber contractors because royalty payments through the forest department are often delayed.

During Monday’s meeting, Qureshi said he would demand that the felling of trees in Diamer be banned for at least 20 years and the policy taken back.

The March 15 notification has allowed 1.6 million cubic feet of illegally cut timber to be released outside the administrative unit after the imposition of a volume-based fine. The fines vary from Rs570 per cubic foot for fir trees to Rs700 per cubic foot for deodar trees.

According to the policy, the 2.078 million cubic feet of legally extracted timber can also be released.

In July 2012, the G-B government had allowed the movement of legally and illegally cut timber from Diamer to other parts of G-B.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2013.


Laxeme | 8 years ago | Reply

Will somebody go to the offices that issued the permits on behalf of the e Prime Minister. And interview the personalities? Experience with REDD all over the world is that it is the will at the highest level of the government that makes REDD a success. In fact if the PM and Presidents do no support forests then there will be defrstation all over Same goes with the government functionaries if they are not corrupt then any rental PM cannot succeed as the case is with ex Secretary Javed Malik

Mooday | 8 years ago | Reply

what happened did the Secretary Kashmir Affairs attend ? did he take back the decision

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