PKONWEB Report (ISLAMABAD) –Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam said Indian jets bombed a “forest reserve” and the government was undertaking an environmental impact assessment, which will be the basis of a complaint at the United Nations and other forums.
“What happened over there is environmental terrorism,” Aslam told Reuters, adding that dozens of pine trees had been felled. “There has been serious environmental damage.”
The destroyed forest reserve is located in the hillside town of Balakot, with a population of 30,000 people, which was completely destroyed by the earthquake on 8 October 2005. Since then, a massive national and international cooperative initiative was launched to rebuild the town and its damaged forestry.
The minister said on Friday Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of “eco-terrorism” over air strikes that damaged pine trees in Balakot and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blows.
The United Nations states that “destruction of the environment, not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly, is clearly contrary to existing international law”, according to the U.N. General Assembly resolution 47/37.
While Pakistan is home to some of the world’s most unique forests, including juniper, deodar, oak, chilgoza pine and mangrove forests, it is also a country with low forest cover – only 1.9% – and high rate of deforestation – up to 2.1% from 1990 to 2015.
Couple of years back, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government initiated a unique forestry program called the Billion Trees Tsunami Afforestation Project to increase forest cover in the province and wrestle deforestation.
Pakistan is also member of the REDD+ initiative. The basic concept of this United Nations initiative is that governments, companies and forest owners in the global South should be rewarded for keeping their forests alive and healthy instead of cutting them down.
The move comes as India and Pakistan are engaged in a diplomatic tussle, with New Delhi vowing to isolate Pakistan over its alleged links to militant groups.
But on Saturday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in its recent meet in UAE where India’s foreign minister was invited to speak as observer, condemned India in a sharply-worded statement for “intensified Indian barbarities since July 2016”, “Indian terrorism” and “illegal detentions and disappearances” in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has taken the statement by the influential grouping of 57 Muslim countries as a diplomatic victory.
India and Pakistan are amidst their biggest stand-off in many years, with the United States and other global powers mediating to de-escalate tensions between arch-foes who have fought three wars since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Indian warplanes on Tuesday bombed a hilly forest area near the northern Pakistani town of Balakot, about 40 km (25 miles) from India’s border in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. New Delhi said it had destroyed a militant training camp and killed hundreds of “terrorists”.
Pakistan denied there were any such camps in the area and locals said only one elderly villager was hurt.
Two Reuters reporters who visited the site of the bombings, where four large craters could be seen, said up to 15 pine trees had been brought down by the blasts. Villagers dismissed Indian claims that hundreds of militants were killed.