Fires keep on erupting, especially in the hot weather, in forests especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces destroying trees valued at millions of rupees. This nullifies the efforts aimed at afforestation in the country. This is a serious issue considering that the country has already a highly inadequate green cover. Recently, fires destroyed a huge number of trees in the mountain forests in several places, including Mardan, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, and Kalash Valley in Chitral. Locals complain that most of the fires did enormous harm because of lack of appropriate attention on the part of the authorities, saying there are no proper arrangements for preventing fires in the forests.
Reports indicate that official lethargy is largely to blame for fires causing massive loss of trees. Residents also claim that deforestation has been going on unchecked due to the complicity of influential people. In one of the recent fires, a large number of oak trees were also destroyed. One oak tree provides green cover to a fairly large area. Locals say the authorities’ alleged conniving at the doings of the timber mafia raises suspicions about sabotaging the efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan aimed at rapid afforestation in the country so as to enable us to counter the threats of climate change.
There are reports that one of the recent fires occurred after a group of shepherds made a fire in the forest to cook meals and left the fire burning. In the Karamar mountain of Swabi district, a fire erupted several days ago and it has not been extinguished till last reports came in, despite efforts by firefighters, the police and Levies. The huge fire is said to be visible from a distance of miles. Recently, many pine-nut trees in K-P had been destroyed by insects due to carelessness on the part of the authorities. Pine trees earn a large amount of precious foreign exchange. All these incidents show that the forest department has failed to ensure safety inside forests.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2021.