Meeting of the Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan held

Islamabad, January 01, 2018 (PPI-OT):A meeting of the Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan was held today in Parliament Lodges, Islamabad under the chairmanship of Malik Ibrar Ahmed. Main agenda were construction of Diamer Basha Dam (DBD) and forests-related issues in Gilgit Baltistan. WAPDA gave a detailed presentation on DBD. It is a Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam rising to the maximum height of 272 m. Its PC-I was approved in 2009 at the cost of US $ 11.17 Billion which was revised to US $ 14.29 Billion in November, 2017.

Its completion period is 8.5 years. The project was approved unanimously by Council of Common Interests (CCI) on 18-07-2010. It will add cheap 18,100 GWh on annual basis, to the National Grid. Having live storage capacity of 6.4 MAF, it will help in meeting the irrigational needs during the KHARIF as well as RABI cropping seasons. Moreover, besides flood mitigation,it will enhance the life of Tarbela Dam by 35 years by reducing sediment accumulation. The project is mainly located in Gilgit-Baltistan. However, it will also cover some area of KPK. Total required land is 37,419 acres; out of which 31,696 acres (85%) have been acquired.

To win the confidence of local population, 44 different schemes in Education, Health and Heritage sectors are underway. Eight (08) JIRGAs have been held to address the grievances of the affectees for their resettlement Composite Model Villages (CMVs) at Harpan Das, Sagachal Das and Thak Das are to be developed to accommodate the affectees. Gilgit Baltistan/Local Administration is expected to finalize the Resettlement/Allotment Process in due course of time.

After the approval of Financing Strategy by the Prime Minister, the project can be initiated as early as August, 2018. The Committee showed serious concern regarding the sufferings of the affectees. The Committee desired to hold its next meeting in Gilgit-Baltistan wherein the Chief Minister, Gilgit Baltistan Government, Chief Secretary, Gilgit Baltistan Government, the concerned MLAs will also be invited. The representatives of affectees will also be discussed to know the level of their satisfaction on the compensation plan.

Next followed the presentation on Curbing the Menace of Illegal Cutting and Smuggling of Forest Wood in Gilgit Baltistan. Natural forests are spread over 2,492 km i.e. 3.5% of the total land cover (72,900 km) of Gilgit Baltistan. After promulgation of Gilgit Baltistan (Self Governance and Empowerment) Order 2009, the subject of Forestry was transferred from Ministry ofKANA to Gilgit Baltistan Council.

There are two types of forests i.e. Private Forests and Protected Forests, wherein harvesting is regulated by Gilgit Private Forest Regulations 1970 and Concession Rules for Protected Forests 1983 respectively. Ban, imposed on legal harvesting in 1993, resulted into illegal cutting encouraging smuggling of timber. It not only reduced forests revenues but also affected health of forests through deforestation and degradation.

It has been curbed through community based Sustainable Forest Management. Cutting is managed keeping in view economic needs of community as well as regeneration cycle of forests. Severe action is taken against illegal cutting. The offenders are arrested and jailed. Under Forest Act, 1927, Divisional Forest Officers have magisterial powers (1st Class). In the revised Forest Act 2017, both the fine and imprisonment period stand enhanced.

Aforestation is given due priority. During the Spring Season almost, 1.00 Million sapling are planted through Green Pakistan Programme Social Forestry is encouraged. It is inevitable to ensure Sustainable Forest Management. The Committee emphasized to curb the illegal cutting of forests through speedy trials. Every effort should be made to popularize forestry in view of its economic as well as environmental value for the country.

The meeting was attended by the Hon. Members of the Committee namely; Mr. Khalil George, Malik Abdul Ghaffar Dogar, Ms. Asiya Naz Tanoli, Mrs. Shamas-un-Nissa, Dr. Shazia Sobia, Mr. Junaid Akbar, Syed Waseem Hussain, Molvi Agha Muhammad, MNAs, Ch. Muhammad Barjees Tahir, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan and Senior Officers of the Ministry of KA and Gilgit-Baltistan, AJ and K Government and Gilgit Baltistan Government.

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