PHA fails to plant new trees after development projects

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LAHORE: Despite serious concerns of the civil society and nature conservationists of the metropolis, the government failed to plant the required trees to compensate for deforestation done for development projects, Pakistan Today has learnt.

The Punjab government has cut over 2,200 trees in Lahore during the last 3 years for the purpose of different development projects, including Rs 2 billion Signal-Free Corridor Project (from Liberty roundabout to Qartaba Chowk via Jail Road), over Rs 160 billion Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project and about Rs 1.5 billion Canal Road Widening Project.

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA), which was the main executing authority for the said projects, cut 196 trees along the route of Signal Free Corridor Project from Liberty to Qartaba Chowk. It also cut 620 grown trees from the 27.1 km long route of the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train project (Dera Gujran to Ali Town) while around 1,300 trees were chopped down for the Canal Road Widening Project. 120 more trees were cut for the Link Canal Road Project via Punjab University.

Before commencement of the projects, and without obtaining a No Objection Certificate from the concerned departments, the executing authorities promised to plant sufficient trees against the trees cut for the sake of ‘development projects’. As per promises, Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) had to plant 1,000 trees against 196 trees cut at Signal Free Road at Jail Road, 10 trees against every fallen tree for the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project, and around 5,000 trees against the 1,300 cut for Canal Road Widening Project. Moreover, it was also announced to allocate 1 per cent amount of the total cost of the development projects for tree plantation.

Among the fallen trees, a large number of trees were indigenous and over fifty years old.

Sources in PHA informed that around 400 trees had been planted against the trees fallen in Jail Road projects while PHA failed to plant the remaining trees. Talking to Pakistan Today, they said that the remaining trees have not been planted yet.

Last year, PHA imported a modern machine from the USA for relocation and transplantation of the trees for their protection. It was claimed by PHA that this machine would be able to relocate fully grown trees from one location to another, with the possibility of a 90 per cent survival rate of the relocating plants.

However, sources said that this machine was only capable of relocating trees of less than 2.5 feet diameter and growing trees. “Trees along canal road were cut and this machine was not used to relocate any of the trees grown there,” they said, and further added that PHA was not given the announced 1 per cent amount of the total cost of the development projects, reserved for planting new trees.

Lahore Bachao Tehreek’s convener, Imrana Tiwana, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that PHA has no data of the total number of trees present in the city. “Government has ruthlessly cut the indigenous and local trees which were the identity of the city”. Saying that the trees will be replanted is deceiving citizens, she said.

This scribe tried to contact PHA Director General Shakeel Ahmad for comment but was unsuccessful, despite various attempts.