Saturday July 02, 2022

Action ordered against unchecked conversion of farmlands

By Our Correspondent
June 13, 2022

Sindh’s environment and coastal development minister has ordered the deputy commissioners posted in all the districts of the province to take strict penal action against the people involved in the unchecked practice of wholesale conversion of agricultural lands into housing projects.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Environment Minister Ismail Rahoo expressed concern that agricultural lands have been diminishing at a fast pace across the country.

Rahoo said the government needs to take action against the undue conversion of farmlands into residential projects in order to prevent shortage of food and worsening of environmental problems in the country.

The provincial environment minister said that the unchecked construction of housing projects on the farmlands of Pakistan has been threatening the economy as well as the environment of the country.

He said that the country can face a shortage of vital crops, including wheat, cotton and rice, due to the widespread and unchecked conversion of farmlands into housing projects.

He also said that the cultivation of important crops in Sindh has already been adversely affected due to water shortage, heat waves and other issues related to the phenomenon of climate change.

He was of the view that the construction of housing projects on agricultural lands needs to be stopped because a majority of these real estate projects are being undertaken without fulfilling all the due legal formalities.

He asked the officials concerned to initiate strict action against the elements behind the unchecked practice of consuming farmlands for the construction of housing societies. A week ago, on World Environment Day, speakers at a programme decried the transformation of farmlands into housing projects, saying that the rapid transformation of farmlands in cities, particularly in the vicinity of Karachi, into urban housing projects has emerged as one of the biggest environmental challenges in Pakistan.

The issue of fast shrinking farmlands near the urban centres of the country was raised by concerned speakers at an event held at the PIA Model School to mark World Environment Day. The programme was organised by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and the National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH).

The speakers lamented that there has been no check on the fast shrinking green cover in cities due to the widespread cutting of trees to build new housing projects and modern civic infrastructure.

Mirza Ishtiaq Baig, the founding president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Pakistan, who was the chief guest of the programme, said that the rapid use of farmlands for building housing facilities has not just created an environmental challenge but also threatened the food security of the country.

Baig said Pakistan used to have sufficient indigenous production of vital crops, but lately, due to a decline in farming, the country needs to import wheat, cotton and sugar. He said that no action has been taken against those who are involved in cutting trees and using forestlands for building concrete structures at the cost of the environment.

PIA Welfare and CSR General Manager Shoaib Dahiri said that the national flag carrier is fully committed to the cause of environmental protection, and has joined hands with leading non-governmental organisations to plant trees at its offices and establishments across the country.

Dahiri said that the Sindh government should take action against the people who are cutting trees because they are threaten the existence of the riverine and mangrove forests in the province.

Representing the non-profit Green Crescent Trust, Musaddiq Aziz praised the PIA for its consistent efforts for saving the environment despite the fact that the national flag carrier has been experiencing pressing financial problems.

NFEH Vice President Nadeem Ashraf said that unchecked extraction of the subsoil water for human consumption in the urban areas has caused a serious environmental imbalance.

NFEH President Naeem Qureshi lamented that hundreds of fully grown trees have recently been cut down to make way for building the Red Line bus corridor in Karachi. Qureshi demanded that the proponents of such projects be bound to plant 10 new saplings to compensate for the loss of a single tree due to new constructions. He said that a criminal case should be lodged against the people involved in cutting trees in urban areas.

Environmental activist Ruqiya Naeem called for not harming the environment while carrying out development projects. Students of the PIA Model School delivered speeches and presented tableaus to highlight the issue of environmental degradation due to rapid tree cutting in cities.