Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Saturday took notice of the proposal for Limestone Lease and installation of 10,000 tons per day (Tpd) Cement Plant by Private Cement Limited, in the area declared as “Salt Range Nature Reserve Complex” in Tehsil Choa Saidan Shah, District Chakwal.
According to press release, she said, “Blasting and quarrying of raw materials by the proposed cement plant threaten the ecology of this rich biodiversity. In addition, there is fear amongst local farmers, inhabitants and protectors of these forests that the proposed plant in addition to the five cement plants that already exist in the district are fast-depleting underground water sources that this rain-fed region desperately relies on, thus, making the area water-scarce.”
She added that according to notification issued by Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries department of Government of Punjab on April 29, 2022, the area was home to natural reserves of 1,200 acres of Ara Reserve Forest, Parera Reserve Forest and Diljabba Reserve Forest holding a variety unique of flora and fauna.
Activities such as hunting wild animals, felling or tapping of trees, clearing land for cultivation and mining is strictly prohibited by law under Section 8 of the Punjab Protected Areas Act 2020 (XXIII of 2020) as declared by the Governor of Punjab.
She stressed, “Pakistan faces a triple environmental and planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change and has lost several thousand acres of precious forest this year due to people’s activities and heatwaves.
We must take precaution in taking actions that will harm the very limited less than
6% of forest cover in Pakistan. The country has added to its struggles to achieve climate goals, increase protection of its biodiversity and preserving people’s livelihood while also battling the disastrous impacts of climate change. Industry can find other places for surface mining instead of putting natural reserves in jeopardy.”
Federal Minister urged the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exercise caution and conduct in-depth assessments to ensure the protected areas and people’s livelihoods as well as their natural capital is not violated by these industrial activities.