Pakistan: Gov blames ‘influential mafias’ for rapid deforestation

Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi claimed on
Tuesday that ‘influential mafias’ are behind the rapid deforestation
in the country, and called for stern action to check the degradation
of Pakistan’s environment. “These mafias are so influential that they
manage to get special permissions from the cabinet to continue their
businesses in violation of the country’s laws,” Afridi said while
responding to a call-attention notice in the National Assembly. He
said that the government had declared 2009 the ‘environment year’, and
was forming a policy to check the degradation of environment
permanently. He said that there was complete ban on felling forests in
the country, but the ban had not been brought into force practically.
“The last NWFP government gave special permission to cut dry and
fallen trees in forests … but that permission was abused.

current NWFP government is following the same practice in the
province,” he added. He said the situation was particularly grave in
the Kohistan district, where “permits are being issued in the absence
of a proper mechanism”. “Even now, over 5 million [square] feet of
wood cut illegally are lying in the Northern Areas. Certain quarters
are looking for an opportunity to move this wood to other areas. Even
the last cabinet gave a special permission for this purpose … that was
also abused,” he claimed. He proposed that the government confiscate
this wood and sell it in an open auction to “set an example and end
this practice once and for all”. The minister said that about 155,000
hectare forestland in the four provinces had been ‘declassified’ as
non-forest land and were being used by the armed forces, to build
housing colonies and for the agriculture purposes.

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