The mango season has not yet begun in Pakistan, but some videos circulate on social media claiming that it was allegedly funded by the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) to build the society. Therefore, mango trees have been cut down on a large scale in Multan.
This southern city of Punjab province is famous for its mango orchards, and mango is also considered the ‘King of Fruits’ in the region.
Following the release of these videos, some users and social activists on social media believe that while the government is planting billions of trees to curb climate change, there are also many agricultural land or trees for such housing projects. Harvesting should be illegal.
Locals and officials have confirmed that videos on social media have cut down mango orchards on Bosan Road and Shujaabad Road in Multan. The Defense Housing Authority (DHA) has come under fire after videos surfaced on social media, but at least the currently under discussion videos are not DHA’s.
Is this harvest of mango trees illegal?
Multan Development Authority DG Agha Ali Abbas said the City Housing Society has been “allowed” to work on Phase One on Bosan Road in which it can carry out all kinds of development work, including cutting down trees on purchased lands.
According to him, “However, the City Housing Society on Shujaabad Road was given conditional permission to start the project on Phase-II, in which they cannot start any construction work including tree felling.”
They will investigate the deforestation on Shujaabad Road as construction work has not been allowed there yet.
On the other hand, the City Housing Society Multan manager was contacted for this news, and written questions were also sent to him, but he did not give any answer till the filing of this news.
Agha Ali Abbas says that the department cannot take any legal action against deforestation, orchards, and deforestation of privately owned agricultural lands which do not fall under the agricultural zone.
However, no one is allowed to build in the area, which is declared safe for gardens and agriculture, which is fifteen, sixteen hundred acres.
According to the development authority, the City Housing Society had tried to build in the area during its Phase One project, but their work was halted.
According to the Multan Environment Department, the City Housing Society has not yet received any NOC for Phase II from the Department of Environment.
It should be noted that orchards are not included in Pakistan’s forest policy. Trees that fall into the category of forests.
Owners must also get permission from the forest department to cut down those trees for any reason.
But owners do not need permission to cut down trees that fall into the category of orchards, fruit trees, except if they are imposed under a government policy and agreement.
Why are landlords forced to sell mango orchards?
In addition to the legal debate over deforestation, some people are also worried that their favorite fruit, the mango tree, is being cut down.
According to officials, development work is currently in full swing in Multan, with several private housing societies under construction. Bosan Road’s area was almost rural until a few years ago, and it was famous for its mango orchards.
The landowner on Bosan Road said the site, which previously housed mango trees, was sold voluntarily and is now privately owned by a housing society.
A landowner in the Shujaabad Road area said he had sold the garden area for a “high price.”
Phase-I of DHA Multan and City Housing Society is being constructed close to each other, and mango trees have been cut down in large numbers at these two places. Work is now in full swing, with residential and commercial land available to the public.
Work is underway on a DHA housing society on about 4,000 acres in the Bosan Road area, while work is underway on an 1889 Kanal City Housing Society Phase One project near the DHA Housing Society.
City Housing Society’s Phase II project, located on Shujaabad Road, covers an area of more than 3,000 canals.
The Multan Mango Growers Association said there had been an increase in the sale of agricultural land and orchards to the housing society in Multan over the past few years. The landlords themselves are willingly selling these lands at exorbitant prices.
He also said that this was the low income of landlords from orchards and agricultural land and the government not paying any attention to it. “If the landlord gets good money from the market, they sell the land.”
He said that apart from two or three prominent housing societies, many small and big housing colonies are being formed at present for which agricultural land and orchards are being used.
A landowner who sells his garden in the Nishtar area said, “I have sold the park for the future of my children. We have paid an excellent price for it. They are thinking of starting a business with their money because agriculture no longer burns our hearth.
According to a property owner in Multan, before the DHA construction, the value of land in the area was Rs. 25-35 lakh per acre.
When DHA Multan announced its construction, the land per acre price had reached “one crore.” When people started getting double the money, they started selling their lands.
Landlords also sold their land and received plot papers in return.
One man said that now the cost per acre at Phase-I of DHA and City Housing Society has gone up to more than Rs 20 million, while if there is a whole society or plotting, the cost is very high.
“Irreparable damage caused by cutting down gardens.”
A user on social media suggested in response to a question, “Shouldn’t there be a law against making agricultural land a residential project?”
The user also said that at present irreparable damage is being done by allowing societies on agricultural lands and orchards.
“A mango tree takes 15 to 20 years to bear fruit. Not only does it bear fruit, it is a source of employment for the local working class, but it also improves the environment,” he says.
According to one user, now that thousands of acres of mango trees have been cut down, it will have a devastating effect on the environment, leading to severe climate change. This will also affect the mango crop.
A Journalist reports on environmental issues. She says the effects of climate change are huge in South Punjab anyway.
“Most of the time floods cause a lot of destruction. People’s jobs are also being affected. If such a large number of trees are cut down inside Multan, it will have a very negative effect.
The Multan Mango Growers Association president said it was confirmed that the need for housing was increasing. “But with it comes the need for food.”
“We need to strike a balance between the two,” he said. The government should not allow housing societies on agricultural lands and orchards.
“Lands that are not suitable for agriculture and horticulture can be used for residential purposes and for new societies,” he added. (i.e.) lands that are barren and uncultivable can become societies so that our lush areas are not harmed.