Following Sindh government’s cancellation of leases of forest land, Board of Revenue Senior Member Muhammad Hussain Syed has formed committees to survey forest land and identify encroachments. Syed told a meeting in Hyderabad on Wednesday that district-level committees will be headed by deputy commissioners and district forest officers.
“The committee will survey the land which comes under the territory of forest in their respective districts and they will also point out land under illegal occupation as well as illegal leases,” said Syed.
On January 7, the provincial cabinet had cancelled leases of 70,000 acres of forest land and ordered action against the people illegally occupying another 145,245 acres of land.
The committees have been directed to write to divisional commissioners to take action to retrieve a piece of land identified to be under illegal occupation. He said that even the divisional commissioners can themselves take notice of illegal lease or occupation and vacate that piece of land without submission of any reference from the committee.
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Syed said a summary is also being sent to the provincial government to provide the committees cover of law enforcement agencies during their actions. He directed forest officials to process all the complaints pending regarding the illegal possession of forest land on priority.
Forest Secretary Abdul Rahim Soomro said the provincial government has started implementation of Supreme Court’s order to end illegal possession of forest land. The provincial government is also preparing a new forest policy after it cancelled the 2004 Agro Forestry Policy. An official told The Express Tribune that a draft of the policy has been prepared and that it is under review for approval.