• Rawalpindi promised enough water

    Rawalpindi is to get an additional 100 million gallons of water per day from Tarbela dam by 2015 when the city is projected to become the fourth largest urban area of the country with a population of nearly 2.3 million. A

  • Militancy takes its toll on forests

    The NWFP forest department failed in achieving its targets fixed for preservation of forests and new plantation in the province last year due to the increasing militancy, an official said on Friday. "Militancy has destroyed forests in the Frontier. The forest department had planned to plant 12 million saplings in 2007, but it could plant only 9.196 million in various districts of the province,' a source in the forest department said here on Friday. In most parts of the troubled districts, the source said, the department's nurseries badly suffered, either plants were taken away by the people or destroyed by the cattle while a lot of plants died due to lack of water and care. "The officials failed to take effective steps for protection of the forests and valuable trees in various districts,' the source said, adding that precious trees were left at the mercy of the timber mafia. Officials of the forest department were avoiding visiting the forest-covered areas in their respective jurisdictions and there was, so far, no data available about the destruction of the forests, particularly cutting of trees. In the past, the source said, the forest department used to mobilise students and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during tree plantation campaigns but it had almost become impossible as all government and private educational institutions remained closed due to the ongoing law and order situation. "Unlike the past, even the NGOs did not take any interest to save or grow plant as they are feeling themselves quite insecure in the troubled region,' the source said. The troubled districts, specially Swat, Tank and Hangu, the situation was more serious, and officials were reportedly unable to transport saplings from nurseries to cultivations sites. Suleman Khan, an environmentalist, told Dawn that the situation in the entire region was not so bad but the officials concerned "were using the pretext just to save their faces'. He disagreed with the officials on the point that transportation of saplings was impossible to some areas, saying that they should concentrate on the areas which were comparatively peaceful. NWFP Chief Conservator Mohammad Nazir Khan, when contacted, admitted the negative impacts of militancy on the forests. "Despite the deteriorating law and order situation, staff members of my department were trying to perform their duties.' Giving details about the spring tree plantation during the current year, he said at least 27 million saplings of different species, raised by the NWFP Forest Department in various filed nurseries, would be planted in various districts including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He said some 2.809 million saplings would be planted in southern districts, 7.872 million in Fata, 2.738 million in Abbottabad, 8.090 million in watershed areas and 5.491 million in Malakand. He said about 0.401 million saplings would be planted by the security forces, 0.221 million by various educational institutions, 1.939 million by farmers/general public, 1.327 million by non-governmental organisations and 23.112 million by the forest department. He said they had decided to plant 0.290 million saplings on 760 acres in Peshawar, 0.447 million in Mardan, 0.414 million in Kohat, 0.040 million in Banu, 0.205 in D.I. Khan. Over 0.732 million saplings would planted in Khyber Agency, 0.916 million in the Mohmand Agency, 0.476 million in the Bajaur Agency, 1.135 million in Orakzai Agency, 1.434 million in Kurram Agency, 0.993 million in South Waziristan and 1.434 million in North Waziristan agencies.

  • Anti-polio drive in Korangi

    The town municipal administration of Korangi is all set to launch a two-day anti-polio campaign from March 4. The town nazim, advocate Mohammad Arif Khan, has directed all the UC nazims and the relevant officials of the health department to raise awareness among the masses about polio so that all children under the age of five could be administered anti-polio vaccines on a regular basis. He was presiding over a meeting of town officials on Friday to review the arrangements for the drive being launched from March 4 to 6. The town nazim praised the efforts of all the town officials during the previous anti-polio campaign and urged them to show the same spirit during the upcoming drive so as to make it a success. He said that special measures should be taken to cover all the katchi abadis and announcements should be made from the local mosques. Town Municipal Officer Dr Mukhtar A. Palejo, Town Health Officer Dr Hussain Ahmed and UC nazims and councillors attended the meeting. Malir Town The acting nazim of Malir Town, Sharafat Ali, inspected various ongoing uplift projects and ordered the TO (Infrastructure) to ensure completion of roads projects by the 10th of Rabiul Awwal. He said that work on various uplift projects was under way in almost all the union councils of the town and efforts were on to complete a number of projects before Rabiul Awwal. Jamshed Town The nazim of Jamshed Town, Javed Ahmed, said that all possible avenues would be explored to boost the town's revenues while officials and staff would be rewarded for their good performance so as to bring improvement in every department. He was speaking at a meeting of the town officials and staff. He stressed the need for managing town's affairs keeping in view the existing budgetary provisions.

  • Call to probe into forest destruction

    The Khebrani Forest Protection Committee of Indus Development Organisation (IDO) has condemned the burning of about 20,000 trees spread on 70 acres by land mafia and called upon the environment ministry and forest department to hold an inquiry into the matter and take action. Leaders of the committee, Basheer Ahmed Khebar and Abdul Ghani Noohpoto said at a news conference at the press club: "Sindh's forests in catchments areas of Indus river spread over tens of thousands of acres of land are of unique importance among world forests. However, deforestation in the areas is destroying environment and culture of Sindh along with the only livelihood of people as they graze their cattle here.' They said that the organization had undertaken not only to save forests in Matiari district but also to plant trees. Members of the committee said enemies of forest were habitual land grabbers and creating hurdles in plantation of new trees. They said officials of Forest Department cooperating with the IDO were also being harassed. They said that land grabbers destroyed forest and get the land leased by using influence. Matiari forest was spread over 28,300 acres and except for a few thousands acres, all trees had been cut and land taken on lease by influential people under agro forestry policy, they said adding: The IDO had constituted forest protection committees comprising different communities to save and rehabilitate forestry and trees had been planted on 1,500 acres in a year in Khebrani and Rais Mureed forests. They said to nullify efforts of committees, miscreants set to fire compartment 13-B and 14-B in Khebrani Forest on February 23 wherein 20,000 trees on 70 acres of land were completely burnt. They said the efforts of volunteers saved other compartments as it was a conspiracy to take over forest land on lease. They said forests were national property and destruction of 20,000 trees was a great tragedy. They made clear to resist with full force the lease of compartment 13-B and 14-B and vowed to rehabilitate the destroyed area. They demanded the ministry of environment and organizations engaged in the protection of environment to investigate the incident and punish those who destroyed 20,000 trees. Earlier, a large number of villagers of the catchments area staged a protest demonstration against a recent incident of the burning of trees in Khebrani forest.

  • Unregistered hospitals hindering waste management efforts

    The absence of a system for registration and regulation of hospitals and clinics run in the private sector has hindered the city district government's efforts to properly manage hospital waste. A source in the municipal services department of the CDGK said that about nine months ago, an exercise was launched to prepare a union council-wise inventory of hospitals, clinics, health-care centres, maternity homes and pathological laboratories and approach the medical establishments concerned to observe safe medical practices, which, however, received a less than encouraging response from hospitals. The field officers could not press the hospitals for details and the exercise remained a one-sided affair which yielded a very limited list. Under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, hospital waste falls within the hazardous waste category, and institutions improperly handling it can be prosecuted. Hazardous waste, existing as solid waste or a combination of solid waste, because of its quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics, is considered a reservoir for disease-transmitting organisms contributing to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illnesses. It poses a potential peril to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed. Knowing the fact that not all the small and big clinics and hospitals, both in the government and private sectors, were in a position to segregate medical waste and dispose of it properly, in the 1990s, the then municipal organisation of the city established two incinerators for safe collection and disposal of hospital waste, including hazardous waste. However, despite all efforts, till date only about 140 hospitals, health centres, laboratories and clinics are availing the government facilities against some payments, and as such it can be said that only 10-15 per cent of the waste in question is being disposed of scientifically, the source said. It was learnt that there were about 3,500 hospitals, health centres, laboratories, clinics and doctors, including qualified dentists, operating throughout the city and also generating medical waste in solid or liquid forms. The source said that since there was no proper documentation of medical establishments available with any government agency or department, the city government's municipal services department had tasked its various field workers and inspectors with collecting the relevant data. The purpose was to get the statistics and locations of hospitals and health centres and then go for counselling and coordination on medical waste disposal. However, despite all efforts the department could prepare a list of only 300-400 establishments, which could be attributed to the fact that there was no set of laws under which the hospitals and clinics could be regulated and accredited and be made to ensure, among other things, that they were environmentally and human health friendly, said a waste manager of the city government. Experts felt that it was due to the lack of a single management scenario that health-care workers, hospital administrators, sanitary workers and other health professionals were unable to understand the necessity of protecting themselves and the public from exposure to hazardous waste. Legislation ready and waiting A source privy to the public health management section of the Sindh government said that after a long exercise and consultation with all the stakeholders, including hospital managers, a draft legislation on the regulation and registration of private sector hospitals in the province was also prepared and later approved by the then chief minister in the first half of 2007 for promulgation, but it was still awaiting the consent of the governor. "Had the ordinance been promulgated, the health department, with the cooperation of the district governments, could have addressed the issue of medical waste management and streamlined the hospital waste disposal system as well,' the source noted. When contacted, Masood Alam, the City Government's EDO for Municipal Services, said his department had started an exercise to list the hospitals, but it remained half complete for a couple of reasons. "Now that the CDGK has entrusted the job of the city's solid waste management to a Chinese company, it would be the responsibility of this firm to look into the issues of all sorts of solid waste, including hospital and hazardous waste,' Mr Alam emphasised.Replying to a question, he said that his department had no real record of hospitals in the city, but it was now understood that the Chinese, who had already started visiting the union councils of the city, would also opt for listing medical establishments to manage medical waste.

  • Khirthar's plant biodiversity under threat, says study

    The recently completed first ever research on the plant biodiversity of the Khirthar Range has found around 197 species, many with medicinal properties, which are under serious threat of extinction due to human activities, including construction, extensive chopping of trees and large shrubs for use as fuel wood, as well as ecological stress. The three-year study, funded by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), suggests immediate large-scale conservation and development of the plant biodiversity of the Khirthar Range, which, it says, has great potential for commercial exploitation for medicinal purposes that would not only reduce pressure on the wild stocks, it would also help alleviate poverty. Other recommendations include the provision of alternate sources of income and fuel to the locals and the initiation of measures to ensure minimum disturbance to the natural habitat while developing Gorakh Hill as a resort. "It's the first ever research on plant biodiversity of the entire Khirthar Range. Earlier, a baseline study was conducted in 2000, but that was only restricted to Khirthar National Park,' said Professor Dr Anjum Perveen of the University of Karachi's botany department, who conducted the research. She said that more research was needed to explore the entire plant biodiversity of the Khirthar Range that extends southwards for about 190 miles from the Mula River in east-central Balochistan to Cape Muari (Monze) west of Karachi on the Arabian Sea. "My research is a small step that needs to be strengthened by further studies. I would have loved to go to the top of the highest peak, Kutte-ji-Qabar (at about 6,878 feet above sea level) that remains covered with snow for many months, but couldn't do so without any logistical support and had to be content with the area within our reach,' she said. It was because of these limitations that eight sites were selected for research. These included Khirthar National Park, Rani Kot, Kutte-ji-Qabar, Batro Jabal, Pir Ghazi Shah and Gorakh Hill (the second highest peak of the Khirthar Range), Dureji and Tiko Baran. "A great source of limestone, gravel, salt, sand and marble, the entire Khirthar Range, that includes protected areas of Khirthar National Park, Mahal Kohistan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Sumbak Game Reserve, is covered with calcareous rocks and has a desert climate. The average temperature ranges between 44 to 48 degrees centigrade in summer and 30 to 35 degrees centigrade in winter at daytime. At night, it drops to as low as 10 to 15 degrees centigrade. The altitude varies from about 1,000 metres in the south to 2,400 metres in the north,' she responded when asked about the geographical and climatic conditions of the area. Incredible diversity The team recorded 197 plant species, distributed in 60 families, the most dominant being Poaceae, followed by Compositae, Papilionaceae and Solanaceae. Species like Neurada procumbens, Corallocarpus epigaeus, Commelina albescens, Moringa concanensis, Plantago ciliata, Plantago stocksii, Olea ferruginea, Salvadora persica, Asparagus sp., Aristolochia bracteolata, Caralluma edulis, C. tuberculata, Cometes surratense and Viola stocksii were rare species, most of which were found on Gorakh Hill. The frequently found species were Fagonia indica, Rhazya stricta, Acacia nilotica and Grewia tenax and Dodanea viscose. The two endemic species were Justicia vahlii and Ruellia sindica while Bergia suffruticosa, Seetzenia lanata and Sophora alopecuroides were the three new findings. Acacia nilotica was being extensively used as a fuel wood while Nannorophs ritchieana for making baskets and mats. Many of these plants surviving in drought conditions, she said, had medicinal properties. Some could be grown in the city and prove to be a wonderful replacement for many decorative plants that required a lot of water. For instance, Dodonaea viscosa can be used to make hedges. Among the large number of plants having medicinal properties included Plantago ciliata (ispagol), Olea ferruginea (kaho), Peganum harmala (harmal), Rhazya stricta (sewear), Tecomella undulate (rohida), Withania coagulans (paneer booti), Asparagus gharoensis (musli), Ephedra ciliata (Ephedra) and Tribulus longipetalous (gokhru). "We visited the sites from time to time during the study period and made efforts to include the representative, topographic and physiographic conditions. Though collecting specimens from inaccessible heights was an arduous task itself, the greater danger was posed by criminal elements who rule these areas and it was difficult to move independently,' she said. When asked about the most difficult and diverse spot in terms of plant biodiversity, Dr Perveen said that Gorakh Hill was the most rich. "The 5,688ft high Gorakh Hill Station is surrounded by high mountains. The most unique feature of this area is that the mercury column remains below 20 degrees centigrade even in June and July. These climatic conditions make it distinctive in vegetation, too,' she said, quickly adding that the plants had been severely damaged by construction works. "The present vegetation is already under stress due to prolonged droughts, extensive grazing, chopping and poor soil conditions. Making Gorakh Hill a resort is an excellent idea, but development shouldn't come at the cost of ecological destruction. In fact, this indigenous plant wealth can be turned into an income-generating source if the government educates locals about its significance and trains them in setting up plant nurseries,' she suggested.

  • Sindh farmers want wheat procurement target raised

    The Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) on Sunday asked the government to increase wheat procurement target from 25 per cent to 40 per cent. The chamber's senior vice-president Dr Shahnawaz Shah said at a meeting at the Agriculture Complex that the government should pay growers an additional Rs40 for each 40 kilogrammes of wheat from its own funds to help them offset the high cost of fertilisers and pesticides. The meeting observed that the poor growers would suffer huge losses as the cost of production was much higher than the government's procurement rate of Rs510 per maund and demanded that the procurement offices should be established at union council level and the mode of payment to growers should be simplified. The growers called upon the newly-elected members of the national and provincial assemblies to take up the issue of sugarcane at the first session of assemblies and adopt resolutions against the excesses of sugar mill owners. They demanded that assemblies should ensure that the growers were paid the official rate of Rs63 per 40 kg and pointed out that the cane's production in the province had dropped by 20 per cent due to sugar mill owners' highhandedness and reduced price. Anwar Bachani, Mir Imdad Talpur, Mohammad Khan Sarejo and Nawaz Ali Samejo were among the participants of the meeting. HCCI: The president of the Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry Haji Mohammad Yaqoob on Sunday criticised raids on glass bangle factories by the officials of labour department and said it had seriously hurt the business. He said after meeting a delegation of the office-bearers of Glass Bangle Association that if bangle manufacturing units were closed due to harassment, thousands of workers including a large number of would lose their jobs. He said that the additional director and joint director of labour usually raided factories sometime before morning prayers, which was adversely affecting the production process. Under the relevant labour laws, the officials were supposed to visit the factories only once a year and they were creating harassment by conducting raids on a daily basis, he said. In a separate statement to press, the HCCI president demanded that the government should take back raise in the prices of petrol, diesel and electricity. Increase in power tariff would deal a serious blow to agricultural and industrial production and raise in oil prices would further ratchet up transport fare and prices of other essential items, he said. The cost of industrial production would shoot up considerably due to increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and electricity, which in turn would lead to hyperinflation, he observed. He said that the country was in the grip of energy crisis and urged the government to formulate short term and long term policies to tackle the problem.

  • Conservator of forest suspended

    The Punjab government has suspended from service Tariq Mahmood, forests conservator and Lal Sohanra National Park administrator. According to a notification issued by Punjab Forest Secretary Naveed Akram Cheema, Mahmood was suspended due to his alleged connivance in a large-scale damage to forests in Rahim Yar Khan Forest division amounting to Rs500 million. The chief conservator of forests, southern zone, reported against the Bahawalpur conservator. The notification said the retention of Mr Mehmood as conservator of forests was not in public interests and as such he was suspended for 90 days. Sheikh Muhammad Irshad, conservator of forests, DG Khan, has been given the additional charge of Bahawalpur zone. Dawn learnt the former conservator had reportedly damaged forests in Rahim Yar Khan. On these complaints, the high-ups of the Forest Department sought his reports. In his replies, as the action speaks, the authorities expressed their dissatisfaction and eventually placed him under suspension. As the copy of the suspension notification has been issued to the chief minister's inspection team and an inquiry against Mahmood may be conducted by the team.

  • Major crops hit by water shortage

    Acute water shortage in Nara canal system has badly hit wheat, vegetable, sugarcane and other crops as several branches and distributaries are closed for more than 10 days.

  • 30,000 TB patients in Muzaffargarh

    There are around 30,000 patients of tuberculosis (TB) in the district and 20 of such patients die every year, participants of an awareness workshop organised by the Pakistan Anti-TB Association (PATA)

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