ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the report of Balochistan’s Communication and Works (C&W) Department secretary regarding cutting of trees in Pishin District to construct Pishin-Yaro Link Road.

Expressing dismay, the top court also summoned Balochistan’s C&W secretary to appear in-person in the case along with a comprehensive report.

On May 6 of 2017, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice on a letter mentioning cutting of 2,200 trees to construct a 10-kilometre Pishin-Yaro Link Road, Pishin District, Balochistan.

“But none of the departments working on the project took pains to save the green trees, which are no less than an asset in droughty and hilly areas of Balochistan,” the letter written by a Pishin resident to the SC, on which the notice was taken, had stated.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Qazi Faez Isa took up the matter for hearing.

The Additional Advocate-General of Balochistan Muhammad Ayaz Khan Swati submitted the report on behalf of C&W secretary.

Justice Isa observed that it seemed that the report was prepared by an ignorant person adding that there was a need to teach the Constitution to the officers of province. Provincial law officer informed the bench that the funds would lapse in case the construction of road was stopped.

The bench however, observed that the court had not stopped the government from constructing the road adding that the option of alternate route was also available where the road could be constructed.

According to the report, the provincial government constituted a committee, which after visiting the site submitted a proposal of construction of a dual carriage way road by acquiring land on the right side of the existing row. The report added that the said proposal estimated the cost which turned out approximately Rs1,100 million including the additional amount for the purchase of land, shifting of gas pipelines, and electricity polls.

The report stated that the government rejected the proposal due to increase in cost of project.

“As such the Government of Balochistan came to the conclusion that the work is required to be carried out according to approved plan by [the] Provincial Department Work Party (PDWP) coupled with proposal of 5,150 new trees plantation upon which approx Rs25 million cost will be incurred and trees will be look[ed] after for five years by the Forest Department,” the report stated.  The report further contended that an FIR in respect of cutting of trees under Forest Act was also registered by the Forest Department against the concerned XEN, adding that due to criminal proceedings in the court the said XEN was placed under suspension.

The C&W secretary in his report claimed that after the suo motu action the construction work on the site was stopped since April/May 2017.

Moreover, a letter was forwarded to the Forest Department seeking permission for cutting of trees which were hurdles in carrying out construction on site as per approved scope.

The Forest Department after receiving the said letter, duly forwarded the same to the chief conservator officer (CCO) Forest for approval.

The CCO directed the Pishin district forest officer to issue the NOC.

“Meanwhile, due to urgency of work and lack of communication, the engineers as per approved PC1 started cutting of trees (100x trees uprooted) presuming that chief conservator officer has directed the district forest officer Pishin to issue NOC, but the incumbent officer did not wait for formal issuance of official NOC by the district forest officer Pishin,” the report stated.

The construction and widening of Pishin-Yaro Road was approved in year 2016 by the cabinet and the provincial assembly for inclusion of PSDP 2016-2017, where after PC1 was prepared by the C&W Department.

In PC1 of the project, C&W Department recommended cutting of trees (1662x trees) to remove the restrictions for widening the road and re-plantation of trees (800x trees) in alternate. 

In PC1 the funds for re-plantation of trees in lieu of trees to be up-rooted were also allocated, and the PC1 of the project was processed for approval of the PDWP.

According to the report, in the minutes of the PDWP it was clearly mentioned regarding works which would be carried out at the site like widening of road and cutting/re-plantation of trees besides civil works.

The top court adjourned the hearing for 15 days.