PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to provide fuel subsidy to the locals in Kalam and other areas where valuable forests are being used as fuel wood for household consumption.

The order was issued by the PHC’s green bench headed by Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan while hearing the writ petitions filed by Malik Muhammad Ajmal Khan Advocate and Dr Adnan Khan. The petitioners told the court that a well-organized mafia is destroying valuable trees in Malakand and other areas and no significant steps were being taken by the provincial government to curb deforestation.

Assistant Advocate General Sikandar Hayat Shah, Secretary Forest, Chief Conservative Malakand also appeared in the court on the occasion. When the hearing began, Justice Qaiser Rashid remarked that eucalyptus trees in residential areas are rapidly depleting water reserves while in Kalam, people are burning cedar trees as fuel. The bench further ordered the removal of eucalyptus trees and also directed the Director-General of Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) to appear before the bench on November 12 and adjourned further hearing on the case.

Justice Rashid asked Secretary Forest to explain why the eucalyptus trees have been planted in Hayatabad? He remarked that there is scarcity of water and it is not available even through tube wells. He said that such trees should planted along the banks of rivers. The chef Secretary Forest replied that the government is implementing Billion Tree Tsunami Scheme under which the target is to plant 1 billion trees in the province. He informed the court that the Billion Tree project does not include eucalyptus trees and steps have been taken to protect forests in the province.

However, Justice Qaiser urged don’t say tsunami, it has many meanings, water level is falling in many areas, eucalyptus trees have been planted in hilly areas where unfortunately springs have dried up, justice Qaider further said. “Instead of wasting energy on eucalyptus trees, the government should give more priority to plant olive trees which has so far promising results,” Justice Qaiser suggested. The justice went on the remarked, “We have noticed that centuries-old trees are being uprooted. In some areas, you have given a free hand to timber mafia. The trees should be protected from timber mafia.”

The court also directed the forest department to submit a detailed report on the protection of trees in South Waziristan with photographs. He remarked that the people of Kalam are using wood as fuel as they do not have any alternative source. The Justice directed the concerned authorities to pay fuel subsidy rate in Kalam and submit progress report in this regard at the next hearing while residential areas including Hayatabad.

The bench also directed the relevant authorities to present a separate report until the next hearing of the case regarding the deforestation and governments’ planation drives in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The judge directed that the government should ensure subsidized supply of fuel to the people for household use to prevent massive deforestation in hilly areas, especially in Kalam.

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