RAWALPINDI: The provincial government is facing an unusual hurdle in setting up a Punjab rescue service office in Kotli Sattian, a tehsil in Rawalpindi district, as all available land is considered protected forest area.
The heavily-wooded Kotli Sattian is one of the few areas in Punjab without a Rescue 1122 office, said Dr Abdul Rehman, the Rescue 1122 Rawalpindi district emergency officer (DEO).
Under the Forest Act 1927, forest land cannot be used for any other purpose. This is also why the area lacks health and education facilities. All of these services are provided via facilities in neighbouring tehsils.
“There is a dire need to establish the service in my hometown because during emergency rescue officials are called in from Murree or Rawalpindi city, which means they take time to reach here, said Mumtaz Ali Satti, a resident of Kotli Sattian. He questioned why Kotli Sattian was ignored in 2006 when the service was established in Rawalpindi city, Murree, Kahuta and Gujar Khan. Today, Kotli Sattian is the only tehsil in Rawalpindi lacking a rescue office.
“The time has come for the government to start the service here because we have been facing numerous problems during emergency situation,” asked Imran Satti, another resident of Kotli Sattian.
Dr Rehman said the administration has been trying to establish an office for a while and the Punjab chief minister has already issued directives for the provision of service. He said the lack of available land and the forest department’s reluctance to allow construction on protected areas has been the stopping block.
The official claimed that they recently noted that quarters for forest officers have been set up on a two kanal piece of land. He said that they asked the forest department to hand over that plot so they could set up an office there.
A Rescue 1122 official said that deadly fires were regularly reported in the forest areas. He maintained that rescuers could be in a position to save more lives if they were stationed closer to the area.
Rawalpindi District Coordination Officer DCO Sajid Zafar Dal said the government has sent a formal request to the Punjab Forests secretary for the issuance of a no objection certificate (NOC) and hoped that a positive response would be forthcoming after the Eid holidays. He said that in a meeting chaired by Punjab Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar last week, it was formally decided that they would approach the Forests secretary for the provision of land. “I hope the secretary would relax the rules and issue an NOC so that this public-interest project can start,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2014.
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