ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan has strongly criticized the “The Punjab Forest (Amendment) Bill 2016” which has been hurriedly passed recently as a promulgated ordinance. He said that the forestry cover in all Pakistan and particularly Punjab province is already very low and also fast diminishing every year. This disastrous decline is due to the rapid encroachments and illegal conversion of forest lands going on unchecked in the province.

In a statement issued today, Imran Khan said that Punjab, since 1990’s when the PML-N came to power, has been constantly losing its forests at an annual rate estimated at almost 3000 hectares per year, which is very alarming and should have been a cause of concern. These rapid and declining forests of Punjab are worsening the pollution situation in the province as we are already facing erratic climatic conditions while also going against the global commitments made by Pakistan during COP21 world agreement on climate change, he added.

He said that instead of taking measures to cope with the alarming situation, the rulers of Punjab have passed this new bill which will amend the law to allow the provincial government to start converting “reserve” forest lands to other uses with total impunity. These “reserve” forests of Punjab have been a sacred resource since the Forest act of 1927, passed by the British. Successive Governments in Punjab have upheld the sanctity of these forests for almost 100 years due to the ecological and environmental value provided by these forests of Punjab.

He blamed that incumbent Punjab government is now taking this process in reverse and is hell bent upon opening the flood gates for the destruction of the remaining forests of Punjab and also legalizing the encroachments and

The chairman PTI said that “encroachment mafia” has become active in the province. It seems that the “loot sale” mentality of PML-N which has been evident in the privatization drives of PIA and Steel Mills is now being applied for the destruction of forests. PTI will strongly oppose this utter madness and will raise its protest within and outside the provincial assembly as well as taking this issue to the courts if needed, he maintained.

Imran Khan also said that the Punjab government needs to take some “green” lessons in environmental protection and conservation of Pakistan’s natural resources from KPK where the government has launched the “Billion Tree Tsunami” project. Under this initiative more than 300000 hectares of degraded forests are being brought back to life and a billion new trees are being planted in contrast to Punjab where more than 40000 hectares of standing forests have been lost already and more will be destroyed if this bill gets passed. In KPK, during the spring 2016 alone, more than 250 million saplings are being currently planted all over the province. This initiative is bringing economic prosperity, green jobs and a healthy environment to the province and has also been acclaimed under the global “Bonn Challenge” agreement which is aimed at fighting global climate change.