PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday directed the deputy commissioners of Lower Chitral and Upper Dir districts to check deforestation in their areas.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mahfooz warned that if any deforestation was reported in future in the two districts, especially in the villages of Kalash community (Lower Chitral) and prominent tourist area of Kumrat (Upper Dir), the deputy commissioners would be held responsible for that.

The bench also directed the provincial forest secretary to submit report about steps taken to check deforestation in the province and what action was taken against officials who were conniving with timber mafia.

The bench issued the order in a petition filed by a resident of Chitral, Abdul Razzak, who had requested the court to take notice of massive illegal chopping of trees in the two districts. The court fixed Oct 15 for the next hearing.

The petitioner’s counsel contended that the timber mafia had been given a free hand to play havoc with the protected forests. He said these elements were engaged in illegal tree harvesting in Kumrat, a famous tourist spot in Upper Dir.

The counsel stated that he had reports that very old trees in villages of Kalash community in Chitral had also been uprooted. He alleged that relevant officials were hand-in-gloves with the elements involved in ruthless tree cutting.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt and an additional advocate general, Syed Sikander Hayat informed the bench that action had been taken against several responsible officials of the department in the past. They added different steps had been taken for increasing forest cover in the province.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2020

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