Forest owners reject lease agreement with Merlyn Wood
Sarhad Forestry Ittehad (Safi) has rejected lease agreement between the department of forests and British company Merlyn Wood for leasing of 2,71,000 acres forest covered area in district Mansehra, Battgram and Swat for 40 years.This was stated by President, Safi Abbottabad, Riaz Mohammad Khan; General Secretary, Safi Swat, Jamshid Khan; Secretary Finance Amir Mohammad Khan, Sultan Yusuf, Hazrat Said, Advisor to Safi, Riaz Ahmad and Noor Islam of Sungi Foundation while addressing a press conference here on Wednesday.Terming the agreement against the interests of real owners, they demanded immediate cancellation of the agreement and warned that in case of non acceptance of their demands they would move the courts.
They said the agreement had been made under REDD Programme under which the British company would pay 12 million sterling pounds to the department of forests.According to the agreement, they said, the company would pay 20 percent share on the profit under the head of carbon credit to the department while the remaining 80 percent would remain with the Merlyn Wood.
The basic objective of the agreement is the development of forests, effective system, forest protection and social and economic well-being of the local people.Safi office-bearers said they had severe reservations on the REDD Programme and making it clear that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had two types of forest, one was seven percent reserve forests, which was state property, while the second was protected forests, which was 35 percent.
But, there is dispute over its ownership.The provincial government has claimed on the protected forests, but the people claims that historically it belongs to them.
However, 60 to 80 percent share in the income of these forests is paid to the people and the remaining 20 percent to 40 percent go to the department of forests.The third kind of forests is Ghuzara, which is in 100 percent ownership of the people; however, 20 percent of the income is deposited with the government for the protection and development of forests.
In other words, only seven percent forests are state property while the department of forests is responsible for the development and protection of forests.Speaking about reservations on the lease agreement, they said that as the agreement was signed between the department and Merlyn Wood and neither the real forests owners were taken into confidence not any kind of consultation was held.
Therefore, they said the agreement relating to protected and Ghuzara forests had no legal status as those forests were the personal properties of some people and government had not right to make any deal in that regard.They said according to the agreement 80 percent profit of carbon credit business would go to Merlyn Wood and 20 percent to forests department and there was no explanation regarding the payment of profit to real owners and proprietors of the forests.
Furthermore, they also questioned the keeping of the agreement in secret and the prior consent of the owners was not obtained, and under which law the department and Merlyn Wood will carry the business of carbon credit.
They said Safi hasddeep concern that forests leases given under such procedure would affect the life and source of incomes of the people and could also trigger social disorder in the area.