Forests are on less area of land than minimum requirement essentially and as such there is dire need for developing forests over more and more areas without wasting further time. 

In this regard, the Punjab Government has come up with a novel way to boost forests wealth in the province. 

According to the reports, the provincial government has decided to lease out a total of more than 90 thousand acres of land in about 200 forest lots of varying sizes in five districts including Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan of South Punjab to the investors for 15 years for commercial forestry. This is surely a commendable step forward under Public Private Partnership mode. 

This innovative idea of the South Punjab Forest Company is appreciable indeed in view of the bitter fact that Pakistan on the whole and Punjab also are facing one of the highest rates of deforestation. It has been considered imperative to promote commercial forestry so that on one hand nation-wide wood based demand is met and on the other hand pressure on natural forests is also reduced. 

Interests of the prospective interested investors already stand ensure under the Punjab Forest Act and Public Private Partnership Act and as such they need not to have any concern in this regard. The government, as per reports, has set 15 per cent reserve price of the total produce for afforestation and Rs 2000 for range land and the investor offering the highest bid will secure bid in a transparent manner. 

Furthermore, in order to improve the forest cover in the province, it has also been made mandatory that minimum of 25 per cent of its share will comprise of indigenous tree species which will not be felled at all during 15 years concession period and thus yield numerous environmental and socio-economic benefits . 

The investors have been advised to apply for availing this investment opportunity at the earliest as the deadline for this purpose has already been fixed as September 15, 2017 to the South Punjab Forest Company, which also plans to create almost 15 thousand jobs in the southern region of the province thus making good contribution towards minimizing unemployment in the backward areas of districts located in South Punjab and this is quite good to note. 

MEEM ZAY RIFAT,  

Lahore, August 3.