KARACHI - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has directed Forest Department to start linear plantation and urban forestry by planting trees on roads, canals and strategic installations because our cities have become heat islands and need effective massive planting.

This he said on Tuesday while presiding over a meeting to review performance of Forest Department here at the CM House. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Major (retd) Azam Suleman, Chairman P&D Mohammad Waseem, Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Forest Sohail Akbar Shah, Principal Secretary to CM Sohail Rajput, Secretary Finance Noor Alam and other concerned officers.

The chief minister said that our cities have become head island, therefore there was a dire need of effective massive tree plantation drive. He added that social forestry means establishment and management of trees on non-forest lands is also needed and promoted.

ACS Forest Sohail Akbar Shah briefed the chief minister on the performance of his departments. He said that out of 123,478.54 acres encroached land he has vacated 17,186.5 acre forest land and still he has to vacate 106,292.04 acres. He pointed out that most of the illegal encroachments cases of forest land were under litigation. At this the chief minister directed him to start raising forests on the vacated land and pursue the cases in the court so that land could be retrieved from the encroachers.

The chief minister was told that the Forest department during generated Rs240 million from agro forestry leases, sale of wood material, sale of minor forest produce etc. It was also pointed out that 64,497.62 acres of forest land has illegally been allotted in Hyderabad, Karachi, Sukkur, Thatta, Dadu, Larkana, Kandhkot, Khipro, Khairpur, Mirpur Mathelo and Tando Mohammad Khan. At this the chief minister directed ACS forest to cancel the allotments by fulfilling legal formalities.

Talking about achievement, Sohail Akbar Shah said that the forest department has developed new forests over 3000 acres through regeneration in Riverine Area. New plantation has been made over an area of 828 acres. The other achievements include conservation and management of Indus delta mangroves over 25,000 acres, establishment of linear plantation over 400 km, raising of 4.535 million container plants; distribution of 8.911 million saplings and cuttings in the province till June 2018 and another 9 million saplings during the monsoon and set up new Guinness World Record of planting 1,129,294 mangroves plants in one day on April 19, 2018. On a query of the chief minister, the secretary Forest said its certificate was expected till September 17, 2018.   

The key challenges as spelt out by Additional Chief Secretary Forest include reforestation/replanting on available blank forests areas in the state-owned forests; increase in tree cover on farmlands through farm forestry/social forestry practices; vacation of encroached areas to bring them under tree cover to reduce the effects of climate change; covering agro forestry lease policy into 100 percent tree growing policy. On this the chief minister directed the secretary to prepare a new lease policy and send to him.

The chief minister suggested the forest department to target the opportunities of establishing mangroves forests on potential blank areas and to conserve about 250,000 acres rehabilitated mangroves forests through community households. 

The meeting was told that Range Lands (Barani Lands) around 1.129 million acres located in desert area and Kohistan areas were dependent on rainfall. Mangroves/Coastal forests are located along the coastal line of Karachi, Thatta and Badin districts. They are environmentally, ecologically and economically important. Their dependence for growth and stability is on the receipt of fresh water below Kotri Barrage and sediment load. It is about 1.5 million acres.