Jan 15, 2009

Sindh: Massacre of Forests Continues Unabated

Sample ImageIllegal tree cutting continues due to poor “check and balance system” - destroying the ecological environment and the access to food for local livestock.

Below is an article written by Amar Guriro and published by the Daily Times:

The federal and provincial governments of Pakistan are looking elsewhere while an illegal tree cutting campaign is being carried out on a mass level along the canal banks and in the riverine forests in Sindh.

Continuous tree cutting has lent a barren look to the banks of canals and forests alongside the River Indus, destroying the area’s ecological environment as well as depriving the livestock and wildlife of their fodder. Recent reports, received from the banks of Rahri canal in northern districts of Sindh, show that trees are being chopped down on a massive scale. Local villagers allege that the relatives of influential political figures are involved in the tree-cutting campaign.

The Sindh Irrigation Department’s official records reveal that the three barrages built on the River Indus are Sukkur Barrage, Guddu Barrage and Kotri Barrage, each with a dozen canals. On the right bank of Sukkur barrage, the three main canals are Main Khair Thar canal, Dadu Canal and Rice Canal while one the left, the four main canals include Nara Canal, Rohari Canal, Khairpur East Canal and Khaiprur West Canal. On the right side of Kotri Canal, Kalri Baghar or KB Feeder is located and on left side three main canals exist including Phuleli, Pinjari and Akram Wah.

These canals are spread all over the province and due to seepage they have resulted in thick forest growth, turning the area into a huge forest range.

The Sindh Forest Department’s records show that some of the important tree varieties include Babool (acacica nilotica), Sheesham or Talhi (dalkagia sisoo), Neem (azatrteha indica), Jar (salvudora oleoides), Sufedo (Eucalyptus) and Sareenh (Albizia). These trees not only strengthen the canal embankments but also provide fodder for the livestock and wildlife as well as maintaining the ecology balance in the province.

Irrigation Department officials say that a large number of Baildars (guards) were posted to look after the banks and the trees in the past but at present, the Baildars are not working properly. As there is no check and balance to keep the previous system functional, the situation has worsened massively because of the timber mafia.

In the past month, thousands of trees were chopped down along the banks of Nara Canal in district Khairpur and now the timber mafia has moved to Rohari canal in the Sanghar district. A resident of Shahdadpur, Abdul Satar Khoso, said that dozens of trucks, donkey-carts and trailers loaded with tree trunks were seen passing through his town. He said that the timber mafia was not only chopping down trees from the banks of Rohri canal but even the trees growing alongside smaller canals were not spared.

Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza who currently holds the portfolio of the Provincial Forest Department said that the law and order situation of Sindh is making it impossible to look after the forest issue. Despite repeated attempts by Daily Times, the minister was not available for further comments.

Meanwhile, Provincial Secretary of Forest Department Mushtaq Memon said that the forests were under the control of the Irrigation Department and hence he would not be able to comment on the issue.