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Sindh cabinet decides to ban polythene bags

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KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet has decided to impose a ban on the use of polythene bags, said Adviser to Chief Minister Sindh for Information, Law and Anti-corruption Barrister Murtaza Wahab, here today.
The chief minister’s adviser at a media briefing about the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, said the government has decided to implement Sindh Environmental Protection Act under which non-degradable polythene bags could not be purchased, used, manufactured or imported. Murtaza Wahab said the ban on polythene bags would be imposed in phases within a time period of three months. In the first phase Sukkur region has been selected, and in the next phase, a complete ban on non-degradable polythene bags in Karachi and Hyderabad regions and rest of Sindh will be implemented.
He informed that traders of polythene and plastic bags would also be engaged in this regard and added that the federal government would also be approached to increase import duty on polythene bags to discourage its import. The cabinet also approved the formation of a committee to review the draft of Sindh Police postings/transfer rules. The cabinet also approved Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Institute of Trauma Bill. It also approved the board of Sindh Child Protection Authority. The cabinet also recommended the release of 12 severely ailing prisoners. Murtaza Wahab added that the Sindh cabinet has imposed a ban on the purchase of new vehicles for three years, adding that the Sindh government wanted to introduce a policy in which a 17-grade officer offered a vehicle on the lease.
An officer should pay its installments and on the payment of installments, the officer will be given ownership of the vehicle.  The officer would also be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle. Regarding Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Trauma Institute, he informed that the institute has been approved by the cabinet and added that it was now authorized to launch post-graduate programs like FSPS, MS, MD, Ph.D. in Arthur Surgery, Traumatology and in the field of emergency medicine. He informed that it was also agreed to form a committee to review the Sindh Police (transfers and postings) draft comprised of Sindh Minister for Energy, Minister for Mines and Minerals, Provincial Law Adviser, Sindh Home Department Secretary and Inspector General of Sindh Police. The adviser further informed that the cabinet also approved the constitution of the Board of Sindh Child Protection Authority and the directed Secretary Social Welfare Department to propose names for the board.

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Environment

11th Int’l CSR Summit 2019 on Jan 24

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ISLAMABAD: National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) will organise 11th International corporate social responsibility (CSR) Summit 2019 on January 24 to provide an innovative platform of interaction and networking amongst the conference delegates.

President NFEH, Mohammad Naeem Qureshi briefed media about the summit that leading corporate leaders, CSR experts, government officials and ambassadors would
deliver their speeches and presentations on the occasion.

The experts will also discuss the emerging concepts and issues related to CSR in Pakistan and provide remedies based on practical approaches and implementation techniques, said a news release.

Among prominent speakers including Martin Kobler Ambassador Germany to Pakistan, MD OGDCL Zahid Mir, Khushid Anwar Jamali Chairman Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh CEO Lead Pakistan, Zahid Saeed CEO Green Crescent Trust, Senior Manager CSR SSGC Shahbaz Islam, Head of CSR Nestle Pakistan Ali Asher, CEO Hashoo Foundation Aisha Khan, Seema Taher Khan CEO Airwaves Media, Hena Jamshed CEO Positive Impact, Atif Sheikh Mari Petroleum Limited, Ammar Jafferi President E-Pakistan and others will attend the moot.

On the occasion Pakistan’s more than 50 most prestigious companies with significant contribution for social development through different remarkable projects and activities will also be given awards.

Qureshi said, all award winning companies have played a vital role in empowerment of society in the field of education, health, environment, socio-economic development, welfare projects for under privileged and under-served masses of the country.

NFEH has also planned an exclusive CSR gallery, in which corporate companies will have the opportunity to show their exemplary CSR activities and initiatives they have undertaken in Pakistan.

 

 

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Industry’s plastic clean-up plan questioned

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PARIS: Environmental groups today poured cold water over a much-trumpeted initiative by some of the world’s biggest petrochemical firms to help end plastic refuse.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste – comprised of big energy, petrochemical, and plastic manufacturing firms – said it would donate $1 billion (880 million euros) to “minimise and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics”. But green experts were sceptical as to the intentions of firms such as Procter & Gamble, Chevron and ExxonMobil, and voiced doubt over the effectiveness of the alliance’s clean-up plan.

“This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics,” said Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace. “In 2018, people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis. “Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants like Exxon, Shell, Dow and Total that fuel destructive climate change,” Forbes added.

A Greenpeace report last year named Procter & Gamble as one of the biggest plastic polluters. Around eight million tonnes of plastic are thrown into the sea every year, according to the Earth Day advocacy group – equivalent of a rubbish truck-load every minute. The alliance said it would invest in green initiatives ranging from better waste-management and increased recycling of plastics, greater education around plastic use and clean ups in “concentrated areas of plastic waste already in the environment”. In a statement Wednesday it said it wanted to invest a total of $1.5 billion over the next five years.

While some green groups welcomed the emphasis on better education, others were critical of the plan’s reliance on recycling. “We are hopeful that the $1.5 billion will be used wisely,” said Jo Ruxton, co-founder of the non-profit Plastic Oceans. “We believe that recycling of plastic is a last resort after re-thinking, replacing, re-designing, re-purposing, reducing and re-using,” she told the Media. Gigi Kellett, deputy director of the campaign group Corporate Accountability, accused companies in the alliance of “greenwashing” their long history of polluting.  

For decades, these corporations have profited immensely from making and creating unnecessary demand for plastics – while lobbying to block policies that would actually reduce waste and pollution,” she said. “The best way to protect our environment is for these corporations to stop blocking real solutions proven to address this crisis at the source – not corporate-backed dangerous schemes that pad profits.”

 

 

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Sindh’s forest cover is declining!

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KARACHI:  The present forest cover in Sindh (Riverine & Irrigated Plantation) is 100,000 acres or less than 0.3% of the surface area. 

Moreover, according to the Chief Conservator Forests  145,245 acres of forest-land is presently under illegal possession:

Forest Encroachments    (area in acres)
Forest Division Forcible encroachment
Afforestation Division, Sukkur 14,000.90
Afforestation Division, Khairpur 25,656.44
GBA Division, Mirpur Mathelo 2,522.10
Afforestation Division, Hyderabad 16,764.90
R.M. Division, Mirpurkhas 191.30
Afforestation Division, Thatta 4,699.50
Afforestation Division, T.M. Khan 2,870.90
R.M. Division, Karachi 450.00
Afforestation Division, Dadu 26,588.00
Afforestation Division, Larkana 17,494.80
Afforestation Division, Shikarpur 2,949.00
Afforestation Division, Kandhkot 7,365.00
Afforestation Division, Khipro 1,056.00
Afforestation Div, Sh. Benazirabad 2,1061.00
Silviculture Research Division, Hyderabad 20,000
Sericulture Division, Hyderabad 73,000
Social Forestry Division, Sukkur 248.30
Social Forestry Division, Badin 1,220.00
SFDP Division, Hyderabad 32,000
Total: 145,245.14

After an intense study, it transpired that while the forest department itself started to decay due to internal mismanagement (corruption, poor governance, favoritism, politicization, and weak control) external interventions in the shape of faulty policies and lack of political will to reform the department acted as a catalyst for deforestation. Without considering the ecological havoc it would cause, tens of thousands of trees were brought down and sold commercially to generate revenue under the so-called utilization policyAnother horrible outcome of the above policy emerged in the shape of illegal encroachment.  

Since there was no effective regeneration policy, most of the land which had a tree cover on it was left vacant and devoid of any plantation; leaving it free at the mercy of the nearby landowner to gradually take over the land for agriculture purpose. The mode of taking over state land gradually changed from surreptitious to blatant; whereas the use of forest-land in most of the cases remained agriculture a barring few sporadic instances where forest land is being used for residential and commercial purpose in connivance with local revenue authorities. The extent of such encroachments is massive.

According to sources Revenue Department has also been making unlawful allotment of the land owned by the forest department and putting it to other institutional uses sans forest department’s consent. Then a considerable size of forestland has been permanently been transferred to private parties, in violation of the state policy and neglecting clear-cut instructions of the Superior Courts issued from time to time. The extent of such land is also quite huge. According to the Chief Conservator of Forests 64,500 acres of land has been transferred away from forest department:

Illegal Allotments

Name of Forest Division Illegal Allotment

(in acres)

Afforestation Division, Hyderabad 1,158.10
Range Management Division, Karachi 42,331.21
Afforestation Division, Sukkur 900.40
Afforestation Division, Thatta 1,343.00
Afforestation Division, Dadu 5263.00
Afforestation Division, Larkana 4992.51
Afforestation Division, Kandhkot 290.00
Afforestation Division, Khipro 6637.00
Afforestation Division, Khairpur 1361.00
Afforestation Division, Mirpur Mathelo 61.000
Afforestation Division, TM Khan 160.40
Grand Total: 64,497.62

Lease policy was introduced in 2004-05 to involve local people to get the forest back through agro-forestry leases. Unfortunately due to political interference and due to incompetence on part of department’s field formations, this policy was never implemented in true spirit. Leases have been granted to around 3500 lessees, allowing them to use nearly 72,000 acres of forest land put on the agroforestry lease schedule by the provincial cabinet. There have been at least two issues with leases. One, in many cases leases, has been granted to benefit the potential lessee, not the forest (meaning putting piece of land with standing green trees on agro-forestry lease schedule); and second and more important, violation of lease terms and insensitivity of the field staff towards such violations.

Needless to say that the Divisional Forest Officers has been the authority to cancel the lease grant on his own, but regrettably it is submitted that the department is lagging behind on this aspect as well. In many cases, if cancellation of the lease is done, the spirit of authority is not the secure the interest of forest but most likely to save the individual’s interest. In this milieu, a consultative meeting was held with both field and secretariat staff and worked out a few proposals for the perusal of the honorable court. If accepted the same will be fine-tuned and put before the Provincial Cabinet for consideration, decision and legislation if necessary. Encroachment is the biggest problem facing the department. 145,000 acres of land under illegal possession is increasing by the day.

Now is not easy to dislodge thousands of encroachers (big and small) immediately. The department has been trying for the past few years but nothing substantial has happened on this front. Upon the intervention of honorable High Court of Sindh, District Vigilance Committees were constituted under learned District and Sessions judges but the outcome was not more than 7-10 percent retrieval of the encroached land. Most of which is still devoid of forest due to lack of resources and eventually its environmental value is zero, (there have been sporadic success stories as well but not enough to take it as a feather in the department’s cap).

Without a workable forestation plan, encroachment retrieval will be environmentally meaningless as vacant land leaves an adverse impact on the environmentally meaningless as vacant land leaves an adverse dweller.  From the past budgetary allocation record it seems that the government does not have enough resources to cover all 145,000 acres in a single go, nor does the department have sufficient manpower and management techniques, and administrative will to ensure effective and transparent use of resources at such a wide scale. Thus, one solution would be to seek local partnership on these lands, which are neither in the physical control of the forest department nor are their green trees.

Proposal, therefore, is to resume these lands forthwith and put them for Agro-forestry auction for five years, with stricter and more effective lease terms of growing at least 50% of forest on the land granted on lease, subject, of course, to the approval from the cabinet. If the department is able to implement this on entire encroached land that means in five years time this will fetch about Rs.2.0-2.5 billion (at the existing rate) apart from a forest cover of 72,000 acres. It is a win-win situation for the government if implemented transparently. The land, which is not auctioned, will be retrieved from encroachers using state machinery and law enforcement agencies.

Existing lease policy has been violated in most of the situations. The Forest Officers have been directed to cancel the lease where terms have been violated apart from recovering complete government dues if any, and reauctioning the same as per laid down procedure in a judicious and transparent manner. Such lands will be re-auctioned as per new policy if approved by the government. This too will increase the forest cover by about 35,000 acres in an ideal situation. Strict ban on cutting of standing trees on entire state land, regardless of the fact that it’s a forest or otherwise, it the need of the day.

The department to establish an independent wing under the Chief Conservator, which shall complete the GIS mapping of all forests and maintain periodical monitoring. So far GIS mapping for forests falling within the limits of District Hyderabad has been completed with the assistance of LARMIS, Board of Revenue, Government of Sindh. Sustainable forest management through community participation is also under consideration through World Bank support. A pilot project is at the planning stage where 10,000 acres of forests are to be watched and protected through community involvement. A similar project has reportedly worked well in Mangrove areas.

The Government needs to revise the lease policy by conditioning it to 50% of tree plantation. The trees will be harvested at the rotation age. Further terms of the lease will be determined separately depending on the lease model feasible for specific the ecological area. (This is an agro-forestry lease for a short term of five years). Revising the lease schedule by including entire land, which is worthy of growing forest and which is under illegal occupation in the agro-forestry lease schedule. Chief Conservator will complete the exercise in four weeks time and identify the lands which meet the above criteria. Such a proposal will be placed before the cabinet for consideration. For ensuring transparency and financial discipline, the lease shall be approved by a three-member committee recommended by the Chief Conservator of Forest and approved by the Administrative Secretary.

Such committee constituted for every district, shall comprise the Conservator of Forests, Concerned DFO and a DFO nominated by the CCF. (Government may also consider placing the Deputy Commissioner of the district on the committee as well). A separate directorate to be established under the direct supervision of the Chief Conservator for completing GIS mapping. Finance department to be directed by the government to provide appropriate budgetary cover. The Directorate shall also maintain the department’s website and uphold all information, education, and awareness. The Directorate shall also explore the possibility of using modern technological tools for better monitoring and record keeping. No tree shall be allowed to be cut down in any ordinary situation. In case it is extremely expedient due to development activity then the executing department shall be responsible to plant and raise 100 new trees for one tree removed, at a spot identified by the respective DFO.

Planning and development department will consider the above point well before the execution of the development scheme. P&D may also issue instructions to all nation-building departments to consider the possibility of “Transplantation” of trees wherever possible. The government should supply free saplings to people and encourage ownership and awareness amongst society through a very low-cost scheme “plant a tree and own a tree”. Board of Revenue may be asked to constitute a special task team under member Land Utilization with representation from Forest department and review all cases of illegal allotments. The Government may also direct the law enforcing agencies – Police and Rangers to assist the forest department as and where required.

This is not all, the research wing of the Forest department will be reinforced further, to suggest effective plantation patterns and tree species keeping in view the global challenge of climate change. But there are many powerful vested interest groups who would want to sabotage the new conditionality. Tacit resistance might also come off lower field formations of Forest Department. But this is the safest course that can be adopted as the land in question is not in the possession of the department. It is not fetching a single rupee to the exchequer and no forest is being grown on this otherwise cultivable area. Above all, this act will help the forest department regain its lost writ, which is fading by the day, let alone its positive impact on the environment.

 

 

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