03 November 2011:
Karachi: A revised version of the decades-old Forest Act 1927 suggests effective measures to protect the forests. The draft law ensures community participation, increase in the number of acts prohibited and enhancement of penalties and punishment for lawbreakers.The speakers highlighted the need for amending and replacing the old law enacted in 1927.
The draft titled The Sindh Forest Act, 2011 was presented for consultation at a workshop organized on Thursday by the Sindh Forest Department in collaboration with the Worldwide Fund for Nature at a local hotel in Karachi. The draft was prepared by K.K. Consultants, a company of retired forest department officials, with financial support of the WWF.
Speaking on the occasion, speakers said that the present law was obsolete and inadequate to meet ground realities. It did not address the issues relating to sustainable management, and its application had become very difficult in view of the changing situation.Weak and flawed regulations, inefficient and corrupt administrations coupled with pressures from politicians as well as military officials had led to the destruction of indigenous forests and woodland on a large scale.
Mr. Aijaz Ahmed Nizamani, additional secretary of the forest and wildlife department, said the conversion of forest land, the law and order situation, a water shortage and social and political issues were some major factors that had led to the depletion of forests.He urged forest department officials to adopt a pragmatic approach towards forest conservation as ‘one could only survive by giving opportunities’
Nasir Ali Panhwar Programme Coordinator Indus for All Programme WWF said that Pakistan has the highest annual deforestation rate in Asia and the forests cover only 2.5 per cent of the country’s land which was 33pc at the time of independence. If the current deforestation and trend of land conversion from forest to other uses is not checked, the country will not be able to meet its commitment under the Millennium Development Goals of increasing its forest cover from 2.5pc to 6pc. He said that ideally, forest area should be 25pc of the total land in a country, he added. He stressed the need for community participation in forest management. He added that that community-managed forests should be made an integral part of the revised act.
Mr. Hameed Ahmed Khan, Former Secretary of Forest & Wildlife Department, urged forest department officials to persuade politicians of their area to ‘leave what is left to the forests’ and take a strong stand when it came to forest conservation. Commenting on the revised act, Dr. Ghulam Rasool Keerio, representing K.K. Consultants, said the recommended set of laws addressed issues at all levels to ensure willingness and support of stakeholders. It covered the missing links and included new concepts of sustainable management.
Remarking on the draft law, Mr. Haider Raza Khan, a senior conservator of forests said “The refusal of the chief ministers of all provinces except Punjab to surrender the powers of changing the status of forest land is the major reason why a national policy on forest couldn’t materialize last year. So, it is unlikely that such a clause would be approved by the assembly,”
Giving his input, Mr.Shamsul Haq Memon, a former forest department official, said the definition of ‘wasteland’ needed to be reviewed to exclude coastal land under mangroves considered as wasteland.He also suggested that the government might have the powers to declare any tree or plant growing on private or government land as reserved or protected which faced the threat of extinction.
Mir Nadir Ali Talpur, chief conservator of Forests, Mr.Riaz Ahmed Wagan conservator of Thatta, Mr. Umeed Khaid NRM Coordinator Indus for All Programme WWF-Pakistan, Mr. Mehboob Alam Ansari, Mr. Ghulam Qadir Shah, Dr. Kella Lekhraj, Mr. Mahboob Ali Bhatti and Mr. Muneer Awan also spoke on the occasion.
For further Information:
Nasir Ali Panhwar
Programme Management Unit - Karachi
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