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January 26, 2016

Forest land can be used for national projects


January 26, 2016

Punjab Forests (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 promulgated


Though the forest protected land in Punjab is already less than the international standard, even then the Punjab government has promulgated an ordinance on Monday, according to which, the forest protected land could be used for national projects of strategic importance.

After the approval of Punjab Governor, the Punjab Forests (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 has been promulgated. Through the ordinance amendments have been introduced to the Section 27 and 34 of the Forest Act 1927. Amending section 27 and 34-A of the Forest Act 1927, subsection 3 has been inserted, according to which the government, with the approval of provincial cabinet, through a notification would declare a reserved forest or any part of the reserved forest as no longer reserved forest. However, the agency or the institution interested in acquiring the reserved forest land satisfies the government with solid reasons in writing that there is no other but to use the proposed land for the purpose of a national project of importance. Moreover, the agency or the institution would have to provide substitute land equal to or bigger than the said protected forest land, situated closed to the forest, besides allocating appropriate funds for immediate afforestation of the substitute land.

It is pertinent to mention that total protected land for forests 1.639 million acres in the Punjab which is 4.1 percent of the total land. Moreover, the protected land for forests is less than the international standards. Out of the total land reserved the forests existed on 1.1 million acres. Furthermore, the government has also planned to lease out thousands of acres to big farmers through Punjab Forest Company. Similarly 200,000 acres of forest protected land has also been handed over to different federal and government institutions. The total numbers of trees are 60.14 million in the province, out of which one percent of the total trees are on private land.

Interestingly in 2010, the government had imposed a ban on the use of the forests protected land for non-forestry purposes by introducing amendments to the Forest Act. Similarly the federal government prepared a Forest Policy 2015 to cope with the effects of changing weather.

It was pointed out that forests were being cut from 27,000 hectare acres of forest land every year across the country and mostly the trees were removed from the private land due to community based and private projects. During last five years, 400.85 million saplings were planted out of which only 50 percent could be grown up.

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