LAHORE  -  South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC) organised a media briefing for environmental journalists to apprise them of the latest developments regarding the afforestation projects in South Punjab.

Tahir Rasheed, CEO, SPFC briefed the media that this model of commercial forestry is the first of a kind project in Pakistan, which will benefit the environment and economy alike. He told that the project received approvals from its board of directors and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Steering Committee, before it solicited proposals from investors over 99,077 acres of land in South Punjab. He further said, ‘Due to the comprehensive bidding process, 348 bids were received which were opened by the independent Bids Opening & Evaluation Committee (BOEC) in the presence of bidders. Out of 189 projects, SPFC received bids on 124 projects, which was 61,749 acres out of the total 99,077 acres. Furthermore, the average produce sharing ratio received was 36 per cent which was double than what was set i.e. 15 per cent’.

He went on to say that the project received the final approval from the Punjab cabinet, after which the concession agreements have been signed with the investors. ‘A total of 43 concession agreements have been signed with the investors so far and now we await for our administrative department (Punjab Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries Department) to direct its field formations to initiate the process of handing over of forestland to concessionaires, who have met the requirements.

Tahir also added that the model of commercial forestry can be replicated in urban centres to achieve the goal of resilient cities, which can help to address smog, heatwave and urban flooding.

Tahir Rasheed further informed regarding the socio-economic and environmental benefits of SPFC’s initiative, including but not limited to the afforestation of 40 million trees, carbon sequestration of 35 million tons, 15,000 green jobs, 25% of SPFC’s share to comprise indigenous tree species which will be conserved during the project duration, circulation of Rs240 billion in the economy and the government to earn Rs20 billion through the project. Mitigation of climate change through massive carbon sequestration will improve the micro-climate of Punjab and also assist the Government of Pakistan in achieving its commitments laid out under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Agenda 2030 among others.

SPFC has ensured transparency, as when the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) conducted its audit in December 2017, from inception till June 30, 2017, no audit paras were pending in the audit report.The auditors found all procurement according to Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules 2014 and all financial matters according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).