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Published Date: Apr 19, 2013

SDPI Press Release (April 19, 2013)

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

They
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 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 that there is no mechanism in place to precisely measure 4
million cubic feet of timber in concerned area adding that 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 pose 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,
Rawalpindi and Muhammad Riaz, President, SAFI exchanged views on potential
threats if the order is not withdrawn immediately.

Towards
the end, participants decided to launch a campaign with coordinated efforts
utilizing all possible means including media, protest demonstrations, forum
meetings, seminars, and meetings with policy makers including politicians to
withdraw the decision and protect environment in the area.