KP forest dept lacks specialised resources to control wildfires

Published June 14, 2019
Officials say the forest department used manual methods to contain forest fires in Mardan and Swabi. — Photo by Umar Bacha/File
Officials say the forest department used manual methods to contain forest fires in Mardan and Swabi. — Photo by Umar Bacha/File

PESHAWAR: Though billions of rupees have been invested in the province to increase forest cover, the forest department does not have specialised resources to control wildfires, which destroyed small and mature green trees over large swathes of land in four districts during the last few days.

The department’s officials said in the absence of firefighting system, the blazes were controlled with the help of shovels, mattocks and other tools.

Conspicuously, the wildfires erupted in those areas, mostly in Mardan and Swabi districts, where the provincial government had carried out massive plantation under its signature Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation programme during the last five years.

Officials surprised to see fire erupt in areas where massive plantation was carried out in five years

“We are astonished to hear that the wildfires erupted simultaneously in six or seven areas where trees were planted during the last five years,” said Mardan divisional forest officer (DFO) Tariq Khadim.

He told Dawn on Thursday that a committee had been formed to probe the forest fire incidents.

The committee will submit its report within 10 days, he said.

The opposition parties in and outside the provincial assembly have been demanding investigations into the Billion Tree Tsunami programme.

The departmental inquiries have already been conducted in the project.

The preliminary reports suggest that blaze caused substantial damages to small and mature trees over four square kilometers area in the forests of Gadoon Amazai, Swabi district.

The surface fire has destroyed plants and trunks of green trees over 17 hectares of land in Gandaf area.

Officials said a large number of picnickers had rushed to forest covered areas during Eid holidays and cooking might have caused bushfire. They said heat wave could also ignite bushfire in forests.

The wildfire also destroyed trees in Karamar Mountains of Swabi.

Blazes were also reported in Kund area near Nowshera and Haripur districts after Eidul Fitr. Police have arrested several persons in connection with these incidents.

The forest covered area in KP has surpassed one million hectares figure after the execution of over one billion trees afforestation programme, which, according to official estimates, is 20.3 per cent of the total lands of the province.

Despite massive tree plantation and increase in forest cover, the department does not have equipment or firefighting machines to cope with wildfires.

Officials said the forest department used manual methods to contain forest fires in Mardan and Swabi.

They said police, staff of Rescue 1122 and forest guards from neighbouring districts were called in to control fire.

The officials said the fire frequently erupted in forests but the department did not have sufficient resources and tools to protect trees.

“At the movement, the forest department does not have firefighting equipment except manpower to extinguish fires in forests,” said an official, adding that the component of firefighting had been included in the Sustainable Forest Management Project.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2019



The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...
Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...