GILGIT: At least 5,000 trees, most over 50 years old, are likely to be chopped down to make way for a judicial complex in Gilgit city.
The city government plans to allocate a major chunk of woodland for the building, insiders told The Express Tribune. “The paperwork is complete and awaiting approval by higher authorities,” shared one source privy to the matter. “According to the proposal, 50 kanals of land will be allocated for the building of the Chief Court.”
The G-B Chief Court is equivalent to high courts in the rest of the country and its existing building is in Konodas area of the city. The forest plantation, as the woodland is locally known, is situated in Jutial area, adjacent to the Supreme Appellate Court complex, which was also constructed recently.
“The authorities seem to be in a hurry as they have planned to get the groundbreaking ceremony inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is scheduled to visit Gilgit city on Tuesday (today),” said the source.
The said land was allocated to the G-B Forest Department back in 1957 to expand the green patch in the city. Over the years, the patch was extended to 250 kanals, adding to the beauty of the city.
However, the move to chop down trees to make way for a building complex is threatening the existence of some 5,000 decades-old trees. Some precious alpine trees are at least half-a-century old.
Experts say the move will be another blow to conservation efforts in G-B where continuous illegal felling of trees such as pine, kail and deodar has denuded nearly 50% of forest cover in the past 20 years. The area of woodlands has dropped drastically—from 640,000 hectares to 295,000 hectares.
A lawyer said the land belongs to the forest department which has notified that any attempt to use it for any other purpose other than plantation will not only be illegal, but also a great injustice.
Not only have forest department officials avoided commenting on the move, the media officer at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat also claimed ignorance. “I am not aware of any such development,” said spokesperson Sajjadul Haq.
Additional Registrar at the G-B Chief Court, however, did confirm the chief court’s building complex is to be constructed over the land. When his attention was drawn to the forest cover, Jan said the chief judge or registrar would be in a better position to comment. However, neither was available at their office when contacted.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2015.