CM terms preservation of forest as topmost priority of his govt 

Special Correspondent

PESHAWAR: Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mahmood khan has directed the high ups of Forest Department to come up with necessary amendments in the existing legal framework of forest proposing more strict punitive actions and heavier fines for those involved in illegal cuttings of forests so that such illegal cuttings of forest could be stopped effectively. While stressing the need of scientific management of forest in the province he has directed the quarters concerned for work out a feasible working plan along with realistic timelines of implementation to this end. He was chairing a meeting of Forest Department here the other day. The meeting given a detailed briefing about the achievements of the department, progress so far made on afforestation under the Ten Billion Tree Afforestation Project, steps taken to stop illegal cuttings of trees, Future Strategy, issues and many other allied matters. Besides provincial minister for Forest and Environment, Ishtiaq Urmar, the meeting was attended by Secretary Forest, Shahidullah Khan, Project Director Billion Tree Project, Tehmasib khan and other relevant authorities. The Chief Minister termed the preservation of forest as one of the top most priorities of his government and said that illegal cuttings of forest trees would not be tolerated at all adding that those involved in illegal cuttings of forest would be dealt with iron hands and given exemplary punishments. He expressed the resolve that all the required steps would be taken and all the resources at hand would be utilized but the protection of forest would not be compromised. On this occasion the Chief Minister accorded principle approval to Forest Department for hiring additional forest guards, raising a Quick Response Force, increasing the number of existing forest check points and installation of CTTV cameras in all the forest check posts in order to protect the forests effectively and stop illegal trafficking of timbers in the province. The meeting was informed that under the Billion Tree Afforestation Project, the department had managed to plant 1.200 billion saplings against the set target of 1.00 billion whereas 200 million saplings have so far been planted and grown in the province under the ongoing Ten Billion Afforestation Project at launched at national level. It was further informed that due to the rigorous planations drives and effective preservation steps of the incumbent government, the overall forest cover area of the province has increased to 6.3 percent. Matter related to the revival and strengthening of the Forest Development Corporation, provision of Special Forest Magistrates, quick disposal of prosecution cases in various courts, removal of encroachments in forest areas, strengthening the existing legal framework of the department, promotion of Eco Tourism in the province came under discussion and a number of important decisions were taken. It was decided in the meeting to fence at least 500 Hector forest areas in each forest division of the province on trail basis. The issue of cutting forest trees for fire wood due to unavailability of alternate energy resources in hilly areas of the province also came under discussion, and the chair directed to convene a joint meeting of all the concerned departments to devise a workable plan for the provision of alternate energy resources to the local population. The Chief Minister also directed the authorities of Forest Department to devise a mechanism to lift out the trees/timbers of wind still laying in forests for auction as per the rules and regulations in vogue so that the income thus earned could be utilized for the effective preservation of forest as well as illegal cutting of standing trees in the pretext of wind fall could be stopped. He further directed the concerned quarter for realistic timeline to implement the proposed working plan for the better preservation and scientific management of forest and to ensure its implementation as per the timelines.