PESHAWAR: The members of the civil society organisations have expressed deep concern over the unchecked deforestation in the scenic Swat district and asked the government to take steps to stop the illegal felling of trees.
During a recent visit to a large Banr forest near the road leading to Mahodand Lake, the Sarhad Conservation Network team members comprising local activists and conservationists took pictures of the freshly felled trees and those marked for felling. They said that Swat was undergoing ruthless deforestation of ancient deodar (cedar) trees.
They alleged that forest officials, timber mafias, law-enforcement agencies were involved in massive deforestation in Kalam, Bahrain and Kumrat and adjoining areas and if urgent action was not taken it shall turn this paradise into a wasteland.
Quoting the locals, they maintained that the felling of trees took place mostly during the midnight.
Known activist and writer from Swat Fazal Khaliq reported felling of trees in Banr, Bouyn, Anakar, Ushu, Matiltan, Jalbarn, Jabral and Utror areas in Kalam and Lal Koh forest in Matta tehsil, which is home of the incumbent chief minister. He complained that there was a lot of media hype about the Billion Tree Tsunami project, but no steps were being taken to check the felling of the precious trees.
“As a first step to check deforestation, the government should hire enough guards with proper monitoring system,” he said, adding that the local forest communities must be activated.
He said that the committees must comprise young, educated and untarnished individuals. “Regular patrolling must be conducted by the forest officials to monitor illegal activities. There must be an effective mechanism to monitor illegal cutting during the nighttime,” said Fazal Khaliq.
He said that the government can easily develop satellite monitoring to save forests and ultimately save the environment. “Why is the government spending billions of rupees on media hype about the tree plantation drive,” he concluded.