MULTAN-The city of saints and mangoes may lose its distinction of being centre of the king of fruits if a drive by some unscrupulous persons to cut mango trees was not checked, something upsetting many old gardeners. “My heart aches when I see cutting of mango trees, which I had planted and nurtured many years ago”, said an old man and famous mango gardener Baba Imaamdin, a resident of suburban Nawabpur area.

“My shivering hands cannot stop the act of cutting of trees and I cannot convince the people to refrain from eliminating the mango trees, as the young generation has become more materialist”, Baba Imaamdin said. The old man said that he had planted thousands of mango trees and also cared the orchards for several years.

Multan is not only famous for hundreds of tombs of great saints but also for its exotic mangoes. According to Fruit and Vegetable wing of Agriculture Department, the mango orchards are spread over nearly 80,000 acres of land and 15,000 farmers are associated with the orchards in Multan district. Almost all the peasants had mango trees in their agricultural fields.

Multan’s unique recognition of mangoes is struggling for its survival due to massive cutting of the trees in adjacent areas of to cater the growing needs of residences. A huge influx of people from across South Punjab is making its way towards Multan, which resulted in shortage of residences. The farmers are developing residential colonies to cater the growing needs of housing. The massive cutting of trees is being seen at Mattital, Qadirpur Raan, Band Bossan, Nawabpur Road, Jhok Wainis, Qasim Bela, Sorij Miani, 17 Kassi, Mukhdoom Rasheed, Naang Shah Chowk, Hamidpur Kanora other localities.

Mango Growers’ Association President Maj (r) Tariq Khan said that Pakistani mangoes had great appreciation in the entire world due to its taste. He said that 10,000 tons of mangoes were exported from Multan alone during last season. He said that with more support from the government mango export could achieve new targets but cutting of mango orchards posed grave threat to the exports. He stressed the need for proper planning to establish new residential colonies and preservation of mango orchards.

Director Town Planning, Multan Development Authority (MDA) Chaudhry Abdul Ghaffar talking to this agency said that the Town Planning Department was trying its best to protect mango orchards under Master Development Plan, by discouraging new residential units at sites of big orchards.

He, however, said that the small farmers were cutting the trees but there was no law to stop them. He said that people in Multan were not habitual of living in multi-storey buildings, which was also reason behind annihilation of the orchards. A mango grower Laeeque Sheikhana, resident of Nawabpur, said that the poor mango growers could not afford exorbitant inputs for the mango orchards and low production of mangoes also forcing them to sell their land for residential purposes to property dealers. Laeeque stated that the farmers were getting reasonable returns by selling their agricultural land.

“The cutting of trees is not only damaging beauty of Multan but also causing immense pollution in city”, said Jameel Ahmed, President Taraqqi Pasand Organisation (TPO). Jameel lamented that the district administration was not paying heed towards the rapid elimination of mango orchards in the district.

The civil society activist Jameel stressed upon district administration to pay focus on the issue otherwise rapid cutting of the trees would enhance pollution problems and deprived countrymen from exotic mangoes also.