Wild fires have ravaged a large portion of forests across the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province without inviting much attention from the Forest Department and government who often claim of planting new trees but there is no mechanism in place to protect the existing forests.
Fires have been reported on the mountain forests of Karamar, Swabi Katlang, Mardan, Talash Amlok Darra in Lower Dir, Jabbar, Upper Dir, Takhatbahi, Mardan and Kalash Valley in Chitral.
The first fire was reported in Kalash Valley of Chitral district in which large oak trees were gutted within no time. Local volunteers were sent to the area to bring the fire under control but till then decades-old large trees had been burnt to the ground.
Local residents blamed that the most probable cause of the inferno was the tourists who lighted a fire to prepare tea or meals and then left without extinguishing it.
Another huge fire was reported in the mountains of Talash, Amlok Darra area of Lower Dir. Local residents blamed that some shepherds were herding their sheep in the mountain and they lighted the fire to cook meals which spread rapidly, engulfing the whole forest. Several dozens of large tree were gutted completely in the fire.
In Dir Bala, Jabbar Union Council, fire broke out in a newly planted forest mysteriously. Police told The Express Tribune that short circuit was the cause of the fire and dozens of Rescue 1122 workers, Lavies officials and policemen were engaged in the fire-fighting activity.
In Swabi district, a huge fire occurred in the famous Karamar mountain which is visible from miles away for the third day despite all the efforts of the firefighters. Fire-fighting teams from Mardan were sent to bring the fire under control without any success as it continued its spread on third consecutive day. Police said that the fire started on Thursday and it was spreading rapidly to the nearby mountains.
“We have brought around 50 percent of the fire under control but still more efforts are required,” said an official of Rescue 1122, adding that last year too fire destroyed hundreds of trees in the same area.
Yet another fire was reported in Takhatbai, Mardan near the famous archeological site for the sixth time in the past three months. It started in the bushes in the evening and spread rapidly due to high winds. Rescue 1122 teams brought it under control after hours of effort.
Local residents blamed that most of the fires were started by people who were part of timber mafia and they wanted to eliminate the proof of chopping of large ancient tree. They demanded of the government and Forest Department to investigate the matter thoroughly and arrest those responsible.
An official of the Forest Department said that hot weather was the main cause of the fires but they were investigating the incidents.
Deforestation in Tirah
A huge deforestation drive in Rajgal area of Tirah, Khyber tribal district has been reported. Local residents blamed that hundreds of acres of land had been deprived of its forest cover overnight and the timber was being smuggled to neighboruing Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20h, 2021.