To control timber theft, private forest owners in Hazara and Malakand division have demanded the provincial government to lift the 20-year-old ban on private forest logging.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Guzara Forest Owners Association (GFOA) President Advocate Jahanzeb Khan said that the forest sector is “ailing” due to the ban imposed on private forest logging after floods reigned havoc in the area in 1992. He said though the ban was imposed to improve the forestry sector, it has instead encouraged the “timber mafia” to exploit small forest owners.
Khan accused the government of maintaining double-standards, explaining that every year permits were issued for government-controlled forest logging but private forest owners are barred from availing the facility. He said that if the ban is lifted, the provincial government will receive millions of rupees in revenue generated from legal private logging and it will also put an end to timber smuggling. Khan explained that by allowing permits, the forest owners will get more income on every tree they sell legally in the open market, adding that it will also reduce deforestation in the area.
Khan’s stance was endorsed by former provincial minister Yousuf Khan Tarand.
“The aim behind imposing a ban on forest logging has not been achieved in the last 20 years as government officials have failed to control illegal cutting of forests,” said Tarand. He said that private forest owners are being exploited at the hands of the timber mafia, who purchase expensive wood from them on throwaway rates.
The GFOA president said that private forest owners do not have other resources to manage their livelihood and are compelled to allow timber smugglers to cut their forests. He maintained that haphazard cutting of forests is not only inflicting heavy losses to owners of private forests but is also contributing to environmental degradation.
He said the association representatives sent their demands to the provincial minister for environment and forest and also hoped that Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti will fulfil his promise of allowing licences for private forest logging. The chief minister made the announcement earlier in a public gathering in Alllai subdivision of Batagram District.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.