PESHAWAR: Despite the claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of massive tree plantation drive, the recent data reveals that through Forest Development Fund (FDF), the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has cut down decade’s old trees in the mountainous regions and sold it in the market for billions of rupees.

The data available with Pakistan Enquirer shows that during 2014 to 2019, under the Forest Development Fund Rs1.75 billion were generated by cutting trees but the officials claimed that the amount has been spent on the protection of forests in the region where trees were cut down by the official of the forest department.

According to the data, Lower Kohistan is on the top of the list where a total of Rs210.81 million have been generated by cutting down decades-old trees. It is followed by Upper Kohistan where the provincial government has cut down and sold Rs790.85 million worth trees as timber in the market.

Besides this, in Upper Dir from 2014 to 2019, the provincial government has earned Rs30.02 million by felling and selling timber in the market. In Dir Kohistan Rs13.76m, Chitral Rs40.80m, Swat Rs1.63m, Alpuri Rs40.45m, Haripur Rs50.23m, Abbottabad Rs20.4m, Mansehra Rs30.41m, Batgram Rs30.91m and Torghar Rs80.2m were generated from cutting forest by the government.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is claiming that the KP government had planted and grown 1.18 billion trees in the province under the billion tree Tsunami project and hailed it as a big achievement. However, the party is silent about the massive tree felling in the province. Besides the government, timber mafia, as well as the locals [For household fuel] in the mountainous area, are active in tree felling.

Last week, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) also expressed concern over the increasing deforestation and directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for immediate efforts to protect forests in the province. The court has directed to provide fuel subsidy to the locals in mountainous areas where valuable forests are being used as fuelwood 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. 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. The court also directed the provincial forest department to submit a detailed report on the protection of trees in South Waziristan along with photographs for forest cover.

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