78,444 acres of forestland illegally allotted by BoR, minister tells PA

Dawn

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was informed on Monday that 78,444 acres of forestland was allotted illegally to various persons and institutions by the provincial revenue authorities.
While furnishing a statement and replying to lawmakers’ queries during Question Hour in the provincial assembly, Forest and Wildlife Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said the Board of Revenue had illegally allotted the forestland to private persons and institutions and the forest department had not given a no-objection certificate to anyone for the allotment of forestland.
The minister said that more than 80 per cent of the land was illegally allotted by the revenue department when the Pakistan Peoples Party was not in the provincial government.
Answering a supplementary question, he said the forestland was illegally allotted from Karachi to Ghotki and the forest department was making all-out efforts for the cancellation of illegal allotment at the revenue authorities’ level.
“So far, an area of 78,444.25 acres of Sindh forestland has been illegally allotted by the revenue authorities to various persons and institutions,” Mr Shah added.
Giving further details, he said that the illegally allotted area of 58,516.05 acres was under litigation as 507 cases were pending disposal in the revenue department and different courts where forest department was vigorously fighting for retrieving the illegally allotted forestland. “Resultantly, the department was able to get the illegal allotment of 290 acres cancelled by the assistant commissioner of Kashmore in Afforestation Division Kandhkot,” he added.
Furthermore, the minister said, the Supreme Court had also taken serious notice of the illegal allotments and directed the provincial government to take immediate steps for the cancellation of such allotments.
Similarly, he added, the provincial cabinet on Jan 7, 2019 also directed the BoR to cancel all illegal allotment of forestland.
‘Entire forestland to be retrieved’
The minister said the provincial authorities now had the support of the apex court and the entire forestland would be retrieved.
He said earlier it was difficult to take action against the illegal allotment of forestland as the occupants moved the courts and obtained restraining orders against the authorities. “Now we have support of the judiciary as no more stay orders are being issued by the courts following the apex court’s order against illegal allotment of state land,” he said and vowed to get all illegal allotments of forestland cancelled through due process.
He also informed the lawmakers that the illegally allotted forestland was shown as the land of the revenue department.
The minister was evasive when the lawmakers belonging to both the treasury and opposition benches asked him to tell the house the names of those who got the illegal allotment of forestland.
Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, who was presiding over the session, also asked the questioners to file a fresh written question in that regard.
Mr Shah, however, said that most of the illegal occupants of forestland in the province belonged either to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or the Grand Democratic Alliance.
In reply to another question, the minister said the project of Green Pakistan Programme was to be funded 50pc each by the federal and Sindh governments, but the project could not take off due to the non-release of a matching grant by the federal government.
Answering another question, he said Rs80 million was released to the Riverine and Inland Forest Department under the development scheme ‘Enhancing cover on state forestlands in Sindh’ during 2017-18. “Out of this released amount, Rs77.666m was spent by the subordinate offices to carry out afforestation in riverine and inland forests,” he said.

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