Daily Times Editorial 19 November 2019

Sindh’s forest management policy


The measure by the Sindh government to reclaim its lost forests with the introduction of a new forest policy is a welcome step towards addressing growing global warming and local needs. The province has claimed 600,000 acres, all meant for forests, from encroachers in an operation stemming from the Supreme Court’s orders. In the coming days, 200,000 more acres will be added to forest areas. The total forest area in Sindh is 888,206 acres, and in the recent operation, 218,000 acres were retrieved from encroachers, while 382,000 acres are already with Sindh forests. Now, the proposed Sindh Sustainable Forest Management Policy is at the final stages of approval which will ensure forest cover there with the active collaboration of local communities. As per the salient features of the policy, local community’s participation in afforestation as well as protection of existing forest stock and future projects in kacha areas will bring about a green change.
Pakistan has been losing its forest cover since its inception, thanks to successive governments’ disregard for saving trees from the timber mafia and due to lack of alternative fuels. Moreover, little of allocation of funds for forestry also played a part. The major shift to plantation and the need for afforestation was first witnessed by the Sindh government in 2011 when it patronised local communities in coastal areas to plant mangroves. The game changing policy, however, was the billion tree campaign by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2013 to 2018, and it made afforestation a signature point of all mainstream parties in the election of 2018. But Sindh is leading the green path again with the introducing the sustainable forest policy. In other provinces, a major part of the afforestation is being done with public funds, which lacks local communities’ collaboration. The Sindh policy also estimates that Rs18 billion would be spent on rehabilitation of forest cover in three phases in as many years.
The policy also addresses the need to plant local, indigenous trees and gradually cut out the invasive, anti-environment species. A scientific inventory of forests in Sindh was conducted in 1994 under which 21 per cent of the riverine forests and 17 per cent of irrigated plantations were under the cover of productive/commercial tree species while the remaining areas were under non-commercial woody vegetation.
Hopefully, the new policy, if approved and implemented, will address demographic and hydrological factors, local market demands and alternatives to forest products.


New beginning in Sri Lanka


Sir Lankans have put their trust in Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the recently concluded presidential elections. The Sri Lankan elections have become increasingly important for Pakistan over the years, not only for cricket or tourism reasons, but also for regional alignments, the shared history of fighting terrorism and in the wake of mounting tensions between China and Indian for regional influence. The results were not quite unexpected as the runner-up, Sajith Premdasa, went into electioneering with the burden of incumbency and a wave of resentment against him in the south. The overwhelming part of Sri Lanka went for Rajapaksa, the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapakasa, for his decisive role in culling the decades-long Tamil insurgency when he being the defence secretary took on the decisive onslaught and announced victory back in 2009. The recent Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, claimed by the Islamic State, weakened the outgoing president’s government for his ‘weak response’. The fear of reprisal from Rajapakasa is visible in the minds of Tamils and Muslims, and for this reason, they did not support him in the polls; the major chunk of the island, Sinhalis, stood by Rajapakasa and landed him a convincing majority.
The new president faces the challenges of ethnic and communal fragmentation besides the poor state of economy and terrorism. Rajapakasa will have to allay the fears of minority Muslims and Tamils. The Pakistani government has congratulated him on his landslide victory, and with Rajapakasa, a new era of relations can set off beteen Pakistan and Sri Lanka. His predecessor’s outright tilt towards India, when it came to Pakistan, had strained ties between the otherwise friendly countries. In 2016, Sri Lanka stood by Delhi in boycotting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation being hosted by Pakistan. Rajapakasa, however, works independently when it comes to India or other regional matters. In 2014, he being the defence secretary defied Indian’s warning against allowing Chinese naval warships into Colombo harbour. The Rajapaksas have often been on a collision course with the Modi government. They have accused Indian diplomats in Sri Lanka of influencing elections in 2015. The recent results would have set off shock waves in Delhi, and a sigh of relief in Beijing.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka can join hands again in promotion of cricket in Pakistan, while Pakistan can benefit from Sri Lankan’s experience to turn around its tourism sector. A peaceful Sri Lanka will benefit the whole region. *

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