Saturday 16 November 2019 ,
Saturday 16 November 2019 ,
Latest News
  • PM going to UAE Saturday to attend Dubai Air Show 2019
  • Sumi returns home escaping torture in Saudi Arabia
  • Bogura rickshaw puller sets example of honesty
  • 87 more Bangladeshis deported from Saudi Arabia
  • Quader asks MPs not to contest in AL upazila councils
  • Why no drive against onion syndicates: BNP asks govt
  • Mayank's double-ton helps India extend lead to 343
11 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM

How aggressive deforestation is destroying Pakistan’s resources

Ghulam Dastageer and Danyal Adam Khan
How aggressive deforestation is destroying  Pakistan’s resources

As the federal capital and its sprawling suburbs recede in the background, low green shrubs on the roadside hills give way to a thin forest of coniferous trees up against a formidable foe — burgeoning schemes to build houses and markets. Some of these schemes are owned and managed by corporate giants such as Bahria Town and Sheraton hotels and restaurants. Many others are run by smaller operators who are said to be peddling either forest lands or properties that are disputed between the forest department and private claimants.

Through wall chalkings and billboards, the Punjab forest department has made an obvious effort to showcase its ‘success’ in forest conservation; nurseries run by the department can be seen at regular intervals and younger trees, indeed, are spotted growing at many places where older ones have been cut down.

As Murree draws closer, colours shift from green to brown to grey. Seen from the nearby mountaintop of Lower Topa, the hill on which the town is built seems like it will collapse under the weight of the reinforced concrete placed on it.

The entrance to Murree is clogged with piles of burning garbage, open sewage lines and an endless chain of cars and motorcycles, producing noxious fumes and ear-renting noise. This environmental pandemonium takes an alarming turn inside a plot of land opposite a bus stand, where between 150 and 200 pine trees have been chopped down since the middle of 2017 to make room for a 127-bed hospital. Although construction has been halted due to winter, the tract of sloping land looks like a graveyard of trees on a cold November day — the earth is dug up and wooden debris is scattered around. Heavy construction machinery is parked where the felled trees once graced the view. Local responses to the building of the hospital have been mixed — a measure of how civic needs and the natural environment are often pitted against each other in tourist areas like Murree where, paradoxically, human presence and activities are heavily dependent on the preservation of nature. Some local journalists and residents criticise the cutting of trees; others view the medical facility as a necessary substitute to the dilapidated civil hospital on the other side of town. Trees can be replanted, they argue, but a human life once lost is lost forever.

A little further up from the bus stand, The Mall is packed with tourists and vendors even though the inclement weather is hardly conducive to a stroll. Situated on the road’s busiest part is Chinar Hotel, owned by octogenarian Haji Shifaul Haq. He walks into his warm, dingy office behind the hotel’s reception with a walking stick in hand.

Haq sports a curled moustache and is dressed in a warm winter coat with a pocket square and ascot scarf — all remnants of colonial-era fashion. The walls of his office are plastered with old photographs of Murree, newspaper cuttings related to the environment and numerous awards he has received in his role as president of the local horticultural society, a private initiative of concerned citizens established in 1995.

He picks up two hand-painted signboards from behind his desk and holds them up. “Mujhe mat kaatain,” he reads out one of them — “Don’t cut me.” He has nailed numerous such boards to trees along The Mall, recording their species and ages. “There were people in the local administration who used to help me out,” Haq says in a shaky old voice. “Now it’s just me.”

In colonial times, Murree and its adjoining areas had all kinds of trees, not only conifers. There were apple orchards and vineyards (one of them owned by Haq’s grandfather in their village nearby) and there were trees of batangi (Himalayan wild pear), he says. The forest was also full of trees that produced the finest and most durable timber — deodar, biyaar (blue pine), chir pine, cypress. “We had some of the rarest and most expensive tree species,” says Haq.

The thriving forest offered people sustenance during the most severe weather conditions. “When there was no fodder for animals in the winter, we would pick seeds and leaves from oak trees and boil them to make animal feed. We would burn pine flowers to keep ourselves warm.”

Many of these trees have disappeared, he says. “Others will eventually follow suit.”

The most egregious move to take urban development into the forest was a 2003 plan by the Punjab government to build what it called New Murree, a residential township and tourist resort spread over 4,000 acres of reserved forest land in Patriata just outside Murree. Local residents, environmentalists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media all opposed the plan.

They feared the construction would not only damage the forest but would also increase the likelihood of environmental catastrophes such as landslides, earthquakes and depletion of water resources. Their opposition caught the eyes of the Supreme Court, which took suo motu notice of the plan in 2005. After judicial proceedings stretched over three years, the government finally scrapped the idea in 2008.




More Editorial stories
Transparency over MoU with Myanmar With the situation of the Rohingyas caught in a stalemate despite a repatriation agreement with Bangladesh, Myanmar, on June 6, signed an MoU with UNDP and UNHCR. Reportedly, the agreement was signed…

Copyright © All right reserved.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Disclaimer & Privacy Policy
About Us
Contact Us

Powered by : Frog Hosting