Forest land misuse Lahore division admin tramples on its own law

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LAHORE, Nov 16: The Lahore division administration on Wednesday began construction of a sports complex on Shahdara’s reserved forest land despite a clear-cut refusal by the forest department, getting arrested a forest officer for resisting what officials said illegal action.Forest Officer Majid Khan was reportedly arrested on the orders of the woman AC city.He was rescued when Additional Chief Secretary Nadeem Hasan Asif intervened after several hours on the request of Forest Secretary Shah Nawaz Badar.

The Forest Amendment Act 2010 clearly debars “any land use change in a reserved or protected forest.” This provision was inserted in the law through an amendment last year basically to prevent use of forest land by any other agency for any purpose other than forestry.

According to official sources, the forest officer had attempted to stop the construction which was started despite an agreement with the forest department that this could not be allowed under the law. But he was arrested for trying to enforce it on the minions with no qualms about violation of law.

Giving details, they said, the Lahore commissioner office had around a month ago written to the forest department to spare 66-kanal land of the Shahdara Reserve Forest, Jhuggian Karrol, for creating a sports ground.

The forest secretary replied that this could not be allowed as under the law forest land could not be spared for purposes other than giving right of way, forest park or plantation.

The commissioner this time changed the demand and sought permission for establishing a “green turf” on the land. The forest secretary issued an NOC (no objection certificate) clearly mentioning that there should be no construction.

Sources said the divisional administration started digging the land in violation of the terms of the NOC on Nov 14 after dumping construction material on the site. And the work was stopped when the forest department authorities approached the supervising AC city.

They said the administration again started digging the land on Wednesday and the forest department authorities sent the forest officer to have it stopped. But he was thrown into a police van and taken to a police station.

Sources said the chief minister wanted to give the city a sports stadium and it was the divisional administration that suggested the use of the forest land for the purpose.

“The government had amended the law to disallow any agency, institution or department to use forest land. And allowing the stadium at Shahdara will mean that it is setting the precedent of how to violate its own law,” an official said.

Lahore Commissioner Jawad Rafiq was not available for comment despite several attempts.

The additional chief secretary said the forest officer was not arrested and his department had some misunderstanding about the use of the forest land.

He said the divisional administration was not constructing any stadium on the land. It was developing a ground for which it intended to construct a boundary wall-cum-fence for its protection. It also planned to construct ‘temporary’ changing rooms for sportspersons and kiosks for guards. “The ground will be vacated if required for forestry,” he claimed.


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