Govt Urged To Take Stern Action Against Timber Mafia To Save Forests

(@FahadShabbir)

Govt urged to take stern action against timber mafia to save forests

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 16th Jun, 2024) Cleaning perspiration with handkerchief in his wood tall, Haji Amanullah Khan, a 72-year-old wood seller was busy like a honey bee in cutting of large slab of shisham, beer, amaltas and other canopy trees with big saw to fulfill the placed orders of customers for Eidul Azha.

As the sun rays bath his house, the wood seller starts motorcycle and come to his wood tall with breakfast for laborers before cutting large timber slabs. The wood stall was established on main GT Road at Pabbi tehsil in Nowshera district where his business started roaring in the wake of increasing demands of wood for Eid and marriage season.

Cutting timber of native and indigenous species with a big electric saw in his ‘wood taal’ with the support of five laborers, the wood seller was working against the time to complete orders placed by the households, hotels and marriage halls.

Aman’s sons were seen helping his father in preparing bundles of endangered Shisham, Phulai, Ber, Kikar, Poplar, Neem, Amaltas, Saru and Jaman in his wood taal scattered on nearly two acres with trees’ trunks spread everywhere on his business place.

“The demands of wood have increased manifold due to the arrival of Eidul Azha’s celebrations and preparation of furniture for marriage season in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.

As a result, the price of one mound (50kg) of firewood has soared to Rs1,000 depending on the timber’s quality,” said Haji Amanullah, adding wood demand also increases manifolds due to shortage of natural gas, coal and high prices of LPG cylinders.

“We prefer customers from hotels, and marriage halls due to high purchase and profit margin,” he said, adding these timbers were being transported from far-flung areas of Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, and Mardan districts after its purchase from farmers on relatively less price than the government’s timber markets rates.

The visitors may be disappointed to see a large number of cut timbers and even uprooted trunks of trees at wood taals while moving on the main GT Road between Tarnab Peshawar to Azakhel Nowshera depicting high rate of deforestation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

National Forest Policy 2015 has revealed that Pakistan’s total forest-covered area was five percent and the country was losing about 27,000 hectares of forests per year, mainly occurring in private and community-owned natural forests.

The policy disclosed that forest resources in all provinces, especially in KP and Gilgit Baltistan were under tremendous pressure from timber mafia, particularly in the communal lands, shamalats, guzara, and privately owned forests.

Adversely impacted agriculture yield and quantity of water at outlets due to fast melting of glaciers due to rising temperature, the policy said that deforestation in watershed areas can trigger land degradation, loss of biodiversity and marine life besides making negative effects on wildlife and aquatic resources.

Niaz Ali Khan, former Chief Conservator of Forests KP while comparing deforestation rate of Pakistan with the world said that every year around 10 million hectares of forest were deforested – equal to the area of Portugal in world.

He said around half of this high deforestation was counterbalanced by re-growing of forests, which means that an overall around five million hectares of the green gold was lost per year worldwide.

Declaring overpopulation, poverty, and unnecessary trees logging are one of the major causes of deforestation in developing countries including Pakistan, he said that Pakistan’s population was only 37 million in 1947 that soared to a record 223 million in 2022, 241 million in 2023 and if it continued growing with such high pace it is expected to touch 260.3 million in 2030 and 330.8 million by 2050, resulting vanishing of the green gold, wildlife, and bees population.

In such a grim scenario, the challenges of food security would be further aggravated for countries like Pakistan and people would be exposed to hunger and starvation.

He said about 60 percent of forests were being used as firewood in the country, 25 percent for furniture and 15 percent of trees were being lost due to urbanization and community-driven demands.

“The deforestation was a national challenge and there was a need to impose a ‘green emergency’ to conserve and protect the green gold by looking above party politics.” He also suggested an agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan to control the smuggling of timber.

Wajid Ali Khan, former Minister for Environment and Forests said that thousands of trees planted under the billions tree afforestation project were prematurely cut in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which was a violation of the agreement signed between KP forest department and farmers.

He said that due to improper planning, dozens of billion trees project’s plantation sites in northern KP were swept away by the gushing flood water in 2022 inflecting huge financial losses to the government kitty.

Fazl e Rabbi Khan, Chief Conservator Forests KP said that under KP Forest Ordinance 2002, Forest Force had been raised in KP with powers like the police to protect forest resources and conduct operations against the timber mafia.

He said KP forest force has been equipped with necessary weaponry, ammunition, vehicles, and a communication system with the power to shoot offenders and timber mafia in self-defense in case of violation of laws.

“The forest officers can arrest, detain or take an accused into custody besides checking any vehicle, boat, railway wagon, or pack animal and seize the smuggled timber,” KP Forest Chief said.

He said DFOs/RFOs can enter any depot, wood/saw cutting unit, building, or any premises to search and seize timber and arrest offenders besides holding investigation, inquiry and arrest any offender without any warrant from the magistrate.

“The forest force’s jurisdiction has been extended to merged areas where check-posts were also established on national and regional highways and roads to curb timber smuggling.”

He suggested special forest courts for speedy trial of the accused, an increase in lockups, modern wireless systems, and mobility vehicles imperative to curb timber smuggling. He said deforestation was a major reason for rising of temperature and climate change.

APP/fam/taj (APP Feature Service)