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The News

Published Date: Apr 20, 2013

CSOs protest approval of timber disposal by former PM

Civil
society organisations have lodged a strong protest against the controversial
approval by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to dispose of 4 million
cubic feet of timber cut legally and illegally in the district Diamer of Gilgit
Baltistan.

Talking
to The News, members of the organisations said, “The approval puts the
environment and bio-diversity of area at extreme danger and can cause severe
conflicts among people due to royalty and other issues concerned. The
critically vague decision without any timeframe, was granted vide ‘Order No.
C-6(1)/2011GBC’ dated 15th March 2013.” Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI), Akhtar Hameed Khan Resource Centre (AHKRC), Bio-Resource
Research Centre (BRC) and Sarhad Awami Forestry Itehad (SAFI) gathered the
environmentalists, civil society representatives and members of local
communities here to discuss and deliberate upon the issue and how to address
the negative fallouts of the decision.

Speaking
at the occasion, Fakhar-i-Abbas, Executive Director of BRC highlighted the
issue with latest glimpses from local communities. The community representative
from Diamer showed their grave concerns and requested all possible help to
immediate make the order null and vide. Kanwar Muhammad Javed Iqbal, Senior
Research Associate of SDPI, shared the technical aspects and said, “There is no
mechanism in place to precisely measure 4 million cubic feet of timber in the
area concerned.”

He
said that the issue is also questionable in terms of ‘national legal framework’
and “international binding agreements”. He said, “The order is vague that not
only allows illegal activities in Diamer but also poses threats to the
boundary-line forest area of district Kohistan where movement of timber by
smugglers has already been reported by local community representatives.”

Fayyaz
Baqir, Director AHKRC and Bashir Ahmed Wani, former IG Forests agreed with all
the deliberations and suggested way forward to take up the issue at various
levels particularly with community and civil society organizations at large.
Professor Afsar Mian, former Dean Forestry, Arid Agriculture University,
Rawal-pindi and Muhammad Riaz, President, SAFI exchanged views on potential
threats if the order was not withdrawn immediately. At the end, the
participants decided to launch a campaign with coordinated efforts utilizing
all possible means including media, protest demonstrations, forum meetings,
hold seminars, and meetings with policy makers including politicians to
withdraw the decision and protect environment in the area.