LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to lease a total of 99,077 acres of land in 187 forest lots of various sizes in four districts of South Punjab to the investors for 15 years for commercial forestry.
This was revealed by Awais Leghari, Chairman, South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC), while addressing a press conference at the office of SPFC here Monday. He gave an overview of SPFC and its initiative to promote afforestation in South Punjab under Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
Awais Leghari, Chairman of NA Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, also informed the media how commercial forestry is on the rise across the world. According to him, “more than 870 million hectares (ha) of forest land is being leased globally. The sector of commercial forestry is valued more than US $480 billion. With Pakistan witnessing one of the highest rates of deforestation, it was imperative to promote commercial forestry, so that the nationwide wood-based demand could be met and pressure on natural forests is reduced.”
Informing the salient features of the initiative to the media, Awais Leghari said the interests of the investors have been ensured through the act of parliament, Punjab Forest Act and Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act 2014. A total of 99,077 acres of land in the form of 187 forest lots of various sizes in Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan are being offered to the investors for 15 years so that commercial forestry and range management activities can be done. The government has set 15 percent reserve price of the total produce for afforestation and Rs2,000 for range land and the investor offering the highest bid to the government will secure the bid, he said.
Tahir Rasheed, CEO, SPFC, was also present on the occasion. He said deforestation and forest degradation account for 20 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) globally. With climate change being a serious threat to the planet the forest cover must be increased. Through SPFC, thousands of acres will be reclaimed through afforestation and range land management activities. The project is investor-friendly and we firmly believe it will contribute to the GDP of the country.
Replying the questions of reporters, Tahir Rasheed said the Punjab government in a bid to improve the forest cover of Punjab has made it mandatory that the 25 percent of its share will comprise of indigenous tree species, which will not be felled during the 15 years concession period and yield numerous environmental and socio-economic benefits.
Tahir Rasheed also told that SPFC would create almost 15,000 jobs in South Punjab, sequester approximately 5.6 million ton CO2 and offer expected Return On Investment (ROI) almost 25 percent to 45 percent, varying from species to species. He urged the investors to apply for the opportunity at the earliest as the deadline is 15th of September, 2017.