ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a detailed report on the federal government’s ’10 billion trees tsunami’ programme, expressing frustration over accelerated deforestation in the region, highlighting the exact number of trees as well as the areas where they were planted.
A two-judge SC bench composed of Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, who had taken up a suo motu case on the rapid deforestation of forests in the country, also ordered the stopping of all kinds of commercial activities or the construction of housing societies on the Kalar Kahar mountain range and the planting of trees in large numbers to make the entire area green again.
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Secretary of State for Climate Change Naheed Durrani, who was summoned during the hearing by the court, was ordered to include a detailed report showing satellite photographs of the areas where trees or saplings or seedlings were planted, in addition to the costs incurred during the whole exercise.
The court expressed surprise when it was told by the secretary that under the 10 billion tree tsunami programme, about 430 million trees had been planted over the past year in various cities. The provinces represent 50 percent of the campaign’s shareholders. The secretary said that reforestation had been carried out on approximately one million hectares of land.
Orders to suspend all commercial building operations in the Kalar Kahar Mountain Range
The chief justice said that if such an immense number of trees had been cultivated, the country’s entire climate and destiny would have changed.
By demanding magistrates to directly visit the places where trees had been planted and report back to the court, the bench proposed confirming the government’s assertion. Naheed Durrani said these saplings had been collected from various nurseries in the country when asked from where such a large number of trees had been procured.
The chief justice, who wondered how such a huge amount of saplings were available in nurseries, could not be persuaded by this knowledge. What quality of life do we leave for our descendants? The chief justice asked, regretting that it had become much more difficult to breathe, having seen the amount of garbage scattered all around in various cities of Punjab and Sindh. In the province of Balochistan, the billion tree project does not exist,” the chief justice said.”
The Forest Secretary of Punjab told the court that since June 2019, about 90 million trees have been planted in the province. Similarly, trees have been cultivated in Punjab on around 25,000 channels of land on both sides of rivers and canals.
The chief justice, however, lamented that 90 m was too little for the scale of the province. “In the man-made Changa Manga wildlife park in the Kasur district of Punjab, we have already seen the regretful depletion of forest cover, while the situation in the Kalar Kahar mountain range does not represent a hopeful picture where housing societies have emerged, lamented the chief justice.
The condition in Sindh was not very promising either, Justice Ahsan said where funds designated for the forest were evidently embezzled. The observation was supported by the chief justice, who said that no matter how many funds were distributed, little went on the field.
The chief justice wondered how trees could thrive in Sindh where it was also hard for humans to exist, regretting that in the name of a drive to apprehend dacoits, the entire forest cover was denuded near Larkana. As a result, he moaned, trees were hacked up in the thick forest, but not a single dacoit was caught.
Sindh irrigation and environmental department workers literally come on an excursion trip to Islamabad and still want to see Murree,” the chief justice said, adding that on what they spent for their official visits, they could plant 50,000 trees.”
Approximately five million trees have been planted in the province, the Sindh Forest Secretary said, but at the same time he regretted that the provincial government was not releasing funds for planting trees. Similarly, 382,000 trees in Sindh were cultivated on both sides of rivers and canals, the court was told.
The chief justice stressed that trees should be cultivated in a suitable way on both sides of the canals and rivers.
Justice Ahsan also noticed the absence of trees on both sides of major highways, including the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway, and remembered how the world’s most polluted city was proclaimed to be Lahore.
On the Kashmir Highway or Expressway in the federal capital, the chief justice lamented that proper rows of trees were also absent, remembering how highways were spruced up by planting trees in a proper and tidy manner in various parts of the country. The court was also told that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 7.3m trees had been planted and soon 39m trees would be planted.
The chief justice, however, lamented that all the resorts of Naran and Kaghan had become a heap of garbage where there were no trees across the lakes and thousands of trees in Kumrat had been cut down.