Bungling decision-making: Activists to campaign against timber policy

Former PM effectively legalised unchecked felling of timber in Diamer a day before leaving office.


Waqas Naeem April 20, 2013
Further increasing the threat of deforestation is the fact that the new policy also allows illegally felled timber to be moved out of G-B. PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR

ISLAMABAD:


Civil society organisations in the federal capital are protesting the new timber movement policy for Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and have decided to launch a campaign to push for its withdrawal.


The controversial policy, which was approved by former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf just a day before his term expired, has allowed the transportation of around four million cubic feet (cft) of timber from Diamer to others parts of Pakistan. Previously, timber movement was only allowed inside G-B, as a measure to curb deforestation.

Further increasing the threat of deforestation is the fact that the new policy also allows illegally felled timber to be moved out of G-B.

Environmentalists and civil society representatives believe timber movement is likely to increase illegal logging because of weak enforcement and monitoring mechanisms.

On Friday, environmentalists and representatives of civil society organisations such as the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Akhtar Hameed Khan Resource Centre (AHKRC), Bio-Resource Research Centre (BRC) and Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (SAFI) discussed the negative fallout of timber movement approval in Islamabad.

Kanwar Muhammad Javed Iqbal, a senior researcher at SDPI, said there is no mechanism to precisely measure the four million cft of timber, which would allow local timber smugglers to exploit the policy and export fresh, illegally-cut timber.

Iqbal said the policy has also jeopardised Pakistan’s international commitments regarding deforestation.

The policy was notified by the G-B Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The council did not consult with the Climate Change Ministry before issuing the order. Environmentalists have alleged that some members of the council have vested interests in the illegal timber trade.

According to the policy, around 1.93 million cft of illegally cut timber would be sold in markets down country, provided the timber owners pay a fine to the forest authorities.

Chilas native Khan Muhammad Qureshi, who has been raising concerns about the Diamer policy in Islamabad since March, said the local timber mafia has already started illegal felling. He alleged that the local forest officers are conniving with the timber mafia to collect fines and start moving timber out of Diamer from May 1.

He said the youth in Chilas have risen up against the policy, but people in the area are unaware of the environmental effects of deforestation and a “sizeable number” are involved in the timber trade.

He said timber smugglers, which used to offer local communities just Rs25 per foot for illegally cut timber, are now offering Rs60 per foot to pacify them. The open-market price for the same timber is around Rs3,500, Qureshi claimed.

On April 8, Climate Change Secretary Muhammad Ali Gardezi told the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change that he will forward a summary to the cabinet secretary to request that the policy be withdrawn.

“Deforestation is not just a problem for the local Chilas community,” Qureshi said. “It has repercussions for the entire country.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2013.

COMMENTS (15)

A Tropical Forester | 8 years ago | Reply

After all this is a global issue of concern and I wonder how Pakistan can utitilize REDD+ international funding to save forests when there is no interest at the top political level.

Faiza HRD | 8 years ago | Reply

Now the time is for Human Resources to Network for a cause

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