When fire doesn’t burn: Timergara residents flay forest dept over ban on firewood

Locals, activists say life crippled due to severe weather


Our Correspondent December 16, 2015
Locals, activists say life crippled due to severe weather. PHOTO: FILE

MINGORA: Residents of Timergara have urged the provincial government to take notice of the decision to ban them from cutting firewood from forests.

An insider familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune, the decision was taken by the forestry department earlier this year. It has created problems for locals who are already dealing with a considerable drop in mercury levels.

“Temperatures have dropped to -11 degrees centigrade following recent snowfall,” he said. “Daily life has been crippled due to the severe weather.”

Up in arms

Timergara village council nazim Shah Nazar Khan told The Express Tribune the ban is unwarranted as it prohibits residents from using firewood to stay warm in winter. “The provincial government should take action against the forestry department,” he said.

Councillor Akhtar Aziz said strict penalties must be imposed on those who have introduced the ban. “The decision is an attempt to deprive locals of access to forests,” he said. “I strongly urge the government to question this ban on the basis of accountability.”

General Councillor Mirza Khan said the department should retract its decision in order to stop people from migrating to other parts of the region due to the severe weather conditions.

Social activist Rehmat Ali told The Express Tribune people are being forced to migrate due to the absence of firewood. “More often than not, they travel on dangerous roads to collect wood,” he said.

Kalam Youth Council President Dr Nasir said the public and the forestry department must also take a series of steps to prevent the timber mafia from depleting forest reserves.

Abdul Ali, a social activist, pointed out over 5,000 wagons have delivered firewood to hotels and commercial departments ever since the tourism season began.

“However, no actions have been taken against this by the forestry department,” he said.

Deforestation

Even though Pakistan is included among the countries with the highest rate of deforestation, it is yet to have a state-wide policy to reverse its fast-eroding forest cover.

A 2004 study conducted by the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI) stated the deforestation rate in the country was 27,000 hectares per year. However, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s state of forest report in 2010 indicates massive increase to 41,000 hectares deforestation per year in Pakistan.

According to FAO, Pakistan has the highest rate of deforestation in the world. This is primarily because of increasing gap between demand and supply of wood, dependence on forests for livelihood and the absence of mechanisms to provide incentives compensations to forest protectors.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th,  2015.

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