• Militancy takes its toll on forests

    The NWFP forest department failed in achieving its targets fixed for preservation of forests and new plantation in the province last year due to the increasing militancy, an official said on Friday. "Militancy has destroyed forests in the Frontier. The forest department had planned to plant 12 million saplings in 2007, but it could plant only 9.196 million in various districts of the province,' a source in the forest department said here on Friday. In most parts of the troubled districts, the source said, the department's nurseries badly suffered, either plants were taken away by the people or destroyed by the cattle while a lot of plants died due to lack of water and care. "The officials failed to take effective steps for protection of the forests and valuable trees in various districts,' the source said, adding that precious trees were left at the mercy of the timber mafia. Officials of the forest department were avoiding visiting the forest-covered areas in their respective jurisdictions and there was, so far, no data available about the destruction of the forests, particularly cutting of trees. In the past, the source said, the forest department used to mobilise students and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during tree plantation campaigns but it had almost become impossible as all government and private educational institutions remained closed due to the ongoing law and order situation. "Unlike the past, even the NGOs did not take any interest to save or grow plant as they are feeling themselves quite insecure in the troubled region,' the source said. The troubled districts, specially Swat, Tank and Hangu, the situation was more serious, and officials were reportedly unable to transport saplings from nurseries to cultivations sites. Suleman Khan, an environmentalist, told Dawn that the situation in the entire region was not so bad but the officials concerned "were using the pretext just to save their faces'. He disagreed with the officials on the point that transportation of saplings was impossible to some areas, saying that they should concentrate on the areas which were comparatively peaceful. NWFP Chief Conservator Mohammad Nazir Khan, when contacted, admitted the negative impacts of militancy on the forests. "Despite the deteriorating law and order situation, staff members of my department were trying to perform their duties.' Giving details about the spring tree plantation during the current year, he said at least 27 million saplings of different species, raised by the NWFP Forest Department in various filed nurseries, would be planted in various districts including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He said some 2.809 million saplings would be planted in southern districts, 7.872 million in Fata, 2.738 million in Abbottabad, 8.090 million in watershed areas and 5.491 million in Malakand. He said about 0.401 million saplings would be planted by the security forces, 0.221 million by various educational institutions, 1.939 million by farmers/general public, 1.327 million by non-governmental organisations and 23.112 million by the forest department. He said they had decided to plant 0.290 million saplings on 760 acres in Peshawar, 0.447 million in Mardan, 0.414 million in Kohat, 0.040 million in Banu, 0.205 in D.I. Khan. Over 0.732 million saplings would planted in Khyber Agency, 0.916 million in the Mohmand Agency, 0.476 million in the Bajaur Agency, 1.135 million in Orakzai Agency, 1.434 million in Kurram Agency, 0.993 million in South Waziristan and 1.434 million in North Waziristan agencies.

  • Call to probe into forest destruction

    The Khebrani Forest Protection Committee of Indus Development Organisation (IDO) has condemned the burning of about 20,000 trees spread on 70 acres by land mafia and called upon the environment ministry and forest department to hold an inquiry into the matter and take action. Leaders of the committee, Basheer Ahmed Khebar and Abdul Ghani Noohpoto said at a news conference at the press club: "Sindh's forests in catchments areas of Indus river spread over tens of thousands of acres of land are of unique importance among world forests. However, deforestation in the areas is destroying environment and culture of Sindh along with the only livelihood of people as they graze their cattle here.' They said that the organization had undertaken not only to save forests in Matiari district but also to plant trees. Members of the committee said enemies of forest were habitual land grabbers and creating hurdles in plantation of new trees. They said officials of Forest Department cooperating with the IDO were also being harassed. They said that land grabbers destroyed forest and get the land leased by using influence. Matiari forest was spread over 28,300 acres and except for a few thousands acres, all trees had been cut and land taken on lease by influential people under agro forestry policy, they said adding: The IDO had constituted forest protection committees comprising different communities to save and rehabilitate forestry and trees had been planted on 1,500 acres in a year in Khebrani and Rais Mureed forests. They said to nullify efforts of committees, miscreants set to fire compartment 13-B and 14-B in Khebrani Forest on February 23 wherein 20,000 trees on 70 acres of land were completely burnt. They said the efforts of volunteers saved other compartments as it was a conspiracy to take over forest land on lease. They said forests were national property and destruction of 20,000 trees was a great tragedy. They made clear to resist with full force the lease of compartment 13-B and 14-B and vowed to rehabilitate the destroyed area. They demanded the ministry of environment and organizations engaged in the protection of environment to investigate the incident and punish those who destroyed 20,000 trees. Earlier, a large number of villagers of the catchments area staged a protest demonstration against a recent incident of the burning of trees in Khebrani forest.

  • 100 mango trees felled in Jhenidah

    Rivals felled down about 100 mango trees from a garden of a youth as a sequel to village feud at Bhatoi village in Shailkupa upazila Thursday night, locals said. Azizul planted Amropali and Mollika varieties of mango saplings on his one acre of land about three years ago, they said. This year buds grew in all the trees. Those were supposed to bear fruits this season. But Azizul's hopes dashed as miscreants fell down the trees. Azizul's father Akbar Sheikh who is at the death-bed are lamenting for the trees. He said the mango trees were the only hope for the poor family. Observing the tragic scene on Friday morning, Azizul's father lost sense. He did not regain sense since morning. When contacted, Azizul said his village rivals committed the heinous act. He informed the matter to Shailkupa police. When contacted, Shailkupa police station officer-in-charge (OC) Kazi Wased Ali assured proper action against the culprits after an investigation.

  • Walk held against chopping of trees

    A walk was organised to raise awareness against chopping of trees and hunting of animals and birds in Thar here on Sunday.

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