CHUNIAN

Changa Manga, one of the biggest man-made forest, covering an area of 12,510 acres of fertile land has suffered a lot at the hands of officials-timber mafia nexus and apathy of the government. However, now it seems that the authorities concerned have realised the gravity of the situation and want to take practical measures to restore this great national wealth. “It is not a daylong job rather required approximately 10 to 15 years to restore this forest into it’s original shape, declared newly-appointed Punjab Forests Secretary Capt (r) Jahanzaib Khan while talking to The Nation here the other day.

Capt (r) Khan expressed his resolve to bring back Changa Manga to the list world’s largest artificial forests, saying that he had taken the job as a prime challenge.

“We are going to carrying out plantation over 900 acres of land in near future which means 653,000 new sapling will be planted,” he informed, adding that the government had released funds for Eco-Friendly Fencing of the forest which includes plantation of 60,000 fruit plants on the boundaries of the forest in double layers.

Highlighting features of his plan for restoration of Changa Managa, the Punjab Forests secretary revealed that “there will be a barbed wire - plant fencing - patrolling road and a plant fencing again.” He shared that there would be 14 check-posts on the boundaries of forests for which trained security guards would be hired. “The total eco-friendly plantation will carried out over 25-km out of which we are planning to complete plantation over 15-km in the current year,” he declared.

On the other hand, Divisional Forest Officer Ch Hayat Hassan said that there were 3 villages of settlers in the forest. However, we are planning to acquire an alternate land in Chunian for the settlers and are planning to make forest as a population free area by awarding as much as three marlas to each of settler at an alternate place, he informed.

He also complained about the insufficient funds for the maintenance of the forest. “How can we look after forest with Rs600 as maintenance expense per acre for the entire year? he questioned.

On the recreational side, the forest department is going to plant 30,000 floral plants on sides of tramway track, the famous British era steam engine train that is still operational for the visitors to have an adventurous ride inside the forest. Grass turfing of the Mehtabi Lake, construction of four new huts and a series of new public toilets is also in process. The Bar-B-Q area spreading over 5 acres is being maintained and improvement of signage and plant breed plates on every tree for the public information purposes is also operational. The DFO also agreed upon a “real time” information map of the forest. It is hoped that in near future if the commitment continues the forest will come “on track” and will continue to reshape itself again as the largest artificial forest of the world.