SANGHAR: Thousands of acres of Khipro forest land have been leased out to influential people in violation of a Sindh High Court stay order restraining officials from leasing out land until it gives its judgment on petitions filed by people of the area.
Scores of local people held a demonstration in Khipro on Saturday in protest against the cutting and burning of trees and leasing out of the land in violation of the Oct 13 court order.
The forest was developed near Khipro taluka in Sanghar district in the 1920s during the British rule. Spread over 11,000 acres, the forest is an important source of livelihood for herdsmen. It also helps maintain the region’s ecological balance.
The local people had filed two petitions in the Sindh High Court, requesting it to declare the forest a national heritage and stop the leasing of its land.
When the court issued the stay order, they heaved a sigh of relief but their joy proved to be short-lived because the cutting of trees is continuing unabated. Approximately 3,000 acres have been leased out and trees on 1,500 acres have been burnt.
The SHC in its order also asked the forest department to ensure that no more trees were felled and the forest was preserved and treated as heritage.
Officials of the forest department appear to be least concerned over the situation and influential people are converting the forest land into farmland.
When this correspondent contacted Divisional Forest Officer Gul Muhammad Junejo for his comments, he said that since the land had already been leased out the people who got it were cutting and burning trees in order to convert the land into farms.