Call to probe into forest destruction

The Khebrani Forest Protection Committee of Indus Development Organisation (IDO) has condemned the burning of about 20,000 trees spread on 70 acres by land mafia and called upon the environment ministry and forest department to hold an inquiry into the matter and take action. Leaders of the committee, Basheer Ahmed Khebar and Abdul Ghani Noohpoto said at a news conference at the press club: "Sindh's forests in catchments areas of Indus river spread over tens of thousands of acres of land are of unique importance among world forests. However, deforestation in the areas is destroying environment and culture of Sindh along with the only livelihood of people as they graze their cattle here.' They said that the organization had undertaken not only to save forests in Matiari district but also to plant trees. Members of the committee said enemies of forest were habitual land grabbers and creating hurdles in plantation of new trees. They said officials of Forest Department cooperating with the IDO were also being harassed. They said that land grabbers destroyed forest and get the land leased by using influence. Matiari forest was spread over 28,300 acres and except for a few thousands acres, all trees had been cut and land taken on lease by influential people under agro forestry policy, they said adding: The IDO had constituted forest protection committees comprising different communities to save and rehabilitate forestry and trees had been planted on 1,500 acres in a year in Khebrani and Rais Mureed forests. They said to nullify efforts of committees, miscreants set to fire compartment 13-B and 14-B in Khebrani Forest on February 23 wherein 20,000 trees on 70 acres of land were completely burnt. They said the efforts of volunteers saved other compartments as it was a conspiracy to take over forest land on lease. They said forests were national property and destruction of 20,000 trees was a great tragedy. They made clear to resist with full force the lease of compartment 13-B and 14-B and vowed to rehabilitate the destroyed area. They demanded the ministry of environment and organizations engaged in the protection of environment to investigate the incident and punish those who destroyed 20,000 trees. Earlier, a large number of villagers of the catchments area staged a protest demonstration against a recent incident of the burning of trees in Khebrani forest.

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