HARIPUR: The raging wildfires continued to cause damage to forestland on a large area in the hilly areas of scenic Khanpur valley, locals told Dawn on Tuesday.

However, forest officials claimed that the fire had been brought under control following intermittent rain and the efforts of officials and volunteers of the forest department and the Galiyat Development Authority (GDA).

Malik Amjad, general councillor of Neelan Bhoto village council, said the blaze that started from the limits of the capital Islamabad five days ago and was still raging, causing damage on a vast area. He said forests in Neelan Bhoto, Hally, Barkot and Muslim Abad village councils were on fire.

He said the fire had destroyed fruit trees and husk stored by farmers at different areas for their livestock.

Raja Nadeem, a resident of Dana Feroz village, said fruit trees of apricot and Shatoot were burnt. He said locals had attempted to put out the blaze using tree branches, but failed. He said the ill-equipped staff of the forest department and GDA could not help protect the forestland.

Fayaz Mughal, a social activist, rejected the impression that the locals were involved in setting the forest on fire for burning the dry grass. He said the local communities depended on forests for getting fodder for livestock and fuel wood.

When contacted, GDA assistant director for Makhniyal subdivision Ehtesham Khan said the wildfire had caused a loss to both matured trees and new growth at an area of 40 hectares. He said his staff was still busy in putting out the blaze, but strong winds were making the job difficult.

Forest department’s Makhniyal sub-divisional officer Zohaib Khan claimed the wildfire in Makhniyal and adjoining areas had been controlled with the efforts of his staff and the rain that lashed the area.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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