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MINGORA: A large number of civil society activists here on Friday took to the streets against the cutting down of decades-old trees along the Saidu-Mingora road by the forest department.

They gathered at the Saidu Sharif Chowk, holding postcards inscribed with slogans to save trees. They also held a walk and chanted slogans against the forest department.

Students, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, mediapersons and social and political activists participated in the protest, condemning the forest department for cutting precious trees along both sides of the main road.

They said the trees were grown in the former Swat state which provided pleasant and pollution-free environment the people and kept the temperature cool, but the forest department had felled them ruthlessly without any concrete reason.

“When the forest department started cutting down the trees we approached the district administration and got the campaign stopped. The Swat district forest officer promised with the deputy commissioner that his department would refrain from cutting trees, but the other night the trees were chopped down deliberately,” Zafar Ali, a civil society activist, said, adding the action hurt people and they would move court against it.

The activists said they had launched a tree plantation campaign in the urban areas by collecting money from people.

“The forest department, instead of saving and taking care of trees, is busy in cutting them down. This is strange that the government department violates its own rules and regulations,” said protester Yahya Khan Dawlat Khel, adding the trees were 60 to 70 years old.

“We will not keep silent on the matter and will save every tree in Swat at any cost,” he vowed.

Dr Jawad, an education activist, said Swat was among the areas unaffected by the global warming and climate change due to a healthy forest cover, but the forest department was in a bid to deprive the valley of its natural beauty.

They demanded of the prime minister, the chief justice and KP chief minister to take strict action against the forest department.

If cutting of trees is not stopped we will stage a protest in front of the Chief Minister House and KP Assembly, the protesters warned.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2018