Community leaders in Thar Sujag Sath have expressed anger, indignation and exasperation over the felling of trees to pave the way for a 100km jeep race during the Thar Sports Festival, scheduled for this weekend.
Ahead of the festival, Fakir Arshad Kumbhar, Salim Samejo, Mumtaz Rahimoon, Akash Hamirni, Zaffar Thari and others held a press conference to lament the tens of thousands of trees that had been torn down by heavy machinery, paving over one hundred kilometers of desert land for the vehicle race.
“The high-ups of Sindh, instead of launching [a] much needed plantation, had posted such officials who were committing the genocide of the precious species of trees,” they said, demanding an immediate environmental survey to measure the irreparable loss of flora during the drive to construct roads among the sandy dunes.
The men said Deputy Commissioner (DC) Tharparkar Mohammad Nawaz Sohoo is chiefly responsible for the deforestation, which was carried out despite a district-wide ban on cutting down trees under 144 of the penal code. Deforestation has been one of the major concerns in this desert region, made worse by the terrible impacts of climate change.
Thar Sujag is a vulnerable, rain-dependent and arid zone of the country. Trees prevent further desertification and add key nutrients into the soil. Community leaders say they are not against festivals and events, but would oppose government officials who continued to stage such events without considering the environmental hazards.
Meanwhile, Arbab Lutuffallh, the Special Assistant to Chief Sindh for Sports, who helped organize the three-day festival, the first of its kind in the region, focused on the number of contests, music, and art performances by singers and artists taking place as part of the Thar Sports Festival. He confirmed that a 100km track had already been paved for a jeep race in the desert district.
The Special Assistant said that sportsmen from across the country were slated to arrive on Friday. He highlighted the Marathon Jeep Race as a special feature, which was expected to draw eminent racers and drivers from across the country, including several politicians.
“The former Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Alyani, Mir Nadir Magsi, Mir Aamir Magsi, and Ms. Nadia are among those few originators who are participating in the jeep race,” he said, adding that over 80 drivers had registered for the main event.
As for the community leaders, they are considering filing a petition with the courts against the organizers of the festival who were directly responsible for such “deplorable conditions.”
“The people in Thar always look after plants and trees like their kids, and deem it a cardinal sin to cut trees. [They] are in deep shock and grief over such a mass destruction of trees, plants and bushes in [a] merciless manner with heavy machinery,” the Thar community activists said.