The stolen woodland

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Thatta: Sindh Forest Department is now in procedural documentation to get the status of its 774,224.22 acres of protected land restored.

The Provincial Chief Conservator of Sindh Forest Department Riaz Ahmed Wagan told News Lens Pakistan, “Out of this huge area the department was only able to recover physical possession of 96,169.21 acres in District Malir (Karachi) and 3,211 acres in Mirpur and Thatta District. Nonetheless, the status of these lands could not be restored in the name of forest department because of illegal possession.”

This area was previously illegally allotted to the land mafia as well as Public and Private sectors after receiving a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Revenue Departments of District Malir (Karachi), Thatta, Dadu and Jamshoro. Ahmed Wagan stressed that the department had never surrendered to any pressure from the land mafia and kept on appraising the court and other authorities of the racket. “On November 05, 2013 the Chief Justice Sindh High Court, Mr. Justice Maqbool Baqar ordered restoration of the entire forest lands including protected land’. He added that the court had also sent directives to the Rangers for an early removal of encroachments.

Recently, vigilance committees were constituted under the District and Session Judges of District Malir (Karachi), Thatta, Dadu and Jamshoro. In response to the recommendations of these committees, Muhammad Arif Domki, Divisional Forest Officer in Range Management Division of Karachi, and other Forest Officials requested the Deputy Commissioners of the relevant districts for reconciliations of land record of protective forestlands falling in jurisdiction of these districts.

An official letter, sent by Divisional Forest Officer in Range Management Division of Karachi to the Deputy Commissioner Malir, disclosed that not only these lands had been encroached by land mafia but also had been allotted to Public Sector. Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology got 200 acres in 2004, Medical and Paramedical Staff Research Burns Ophthalmology 25 acres in 2005, Judicial Academy 100 acres in 2007, Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture 15 acres in 2006 whereas Agha Khan University got 800 acres in 2005.

Similarly, land allotted to different persons for cultivation during 1984 in Deh Ghaghar was around 450 acres. The Pak Land “Deewan” Cement Factory, established in 1970, possessed an area of 2000 acres. Around 2000 acres had been allotted to Defense Housing Authority (DHA) with approval of Sindh Cabinet in 2001.

The former Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Jaffar Abbasi and some Revenue Mukhtiarkar where of the view that the Wastelands in Karachi, Thatta, Dadu and Jamshoro districts were declared as protective forests through Government of Waste Pakistan’s notification numbers issued every now and then. The News Lens Pakistan obtained copies of such Gazette of Waste Pakistan notified on September 26, 1958.

All these sources unanimously claimed that these lands were meant to provide pastures for domestic animals of local and nomadic populations, so that, they could rear and feed their animals and establish grazing fields. Although such occupation would not have any environmental repercussions but these lands should be vacated from the land mafia and their status should be restored in the name of Forest Department.

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