NAROWAL: More than Rs23 million worth trees have burnt in 38 incidents of bush fire in Narowal district in the first five months of the year, according to Rescue 1122, forcing the migration of wildlife, such as deer, leopards and peacocks, to India.

Of the 38 incidents, 26 forest fires occurred in Shakargarh, seven in Zafarwal and five in Narowal tehsil.

Fire incidents in the Khanpur forest of Shakargarh tehsil, Chak Chamal, Chak Qaziyan, Bra Bhai Masroor, Chak Amro, Barwal/Banial and rainwater drain Daik Kangra in Zafarwal have burnt trees on 143 acres. Among the burnt trees are cactus and sheesham valued at Rs23 million.

According to Rescue 1122, fire brigade from Narowal, Shakargarh and Zafarwal took part in firefighting operations. Forest fires have also caused severe damage to wildlife.

According to Rescue 1122 sources, several wild animals were killed in the blazes. In the last five months, there have been six forest fires at Big Brother Masroor’s jungles. There have been three fire incidents in Chak Amrur and Banial/Barwal forest.

District Emergency Officer Engineer Adnan Nawaz told Dawn that the forests in Shakargarh are adjacent to Pakistan-India international border. He said Shakargarh and Zafarwal tehsils also have forests along the working boundary of occupied Kashmir.

He said due to forest fires in border areas, rare species of animals, such as deer, leopard, monkey, peacock, wolves and squirrels have migrated to India. He said that due to forest fires, Pakistan is facing a double loss -- the fire not only burns precious trees to ashes, but also loses the rare breeds of animals to India. He said forest fires cause the national loss of millions annually.

He said due to the lack of roads in border areas, it takes more time for fire vehicles to reach the forests in case of any eventuality. He said the forest department was planting random trees in the forest due to which fire vehicles could not reach the affected area.

He said if the forest department planted trees with planning and installed deep well water pumps at different places in the forest, the fire could be controlled on time. He said if forests were properly planned, the loss of millions of rupees every year could be saved.

Citizens Manan Ahmed and Munawwar Hassan said forest fires break out every year, but the district administration does not have any plan to prevent them. They said the government spends billions of rupees annually to reduce pollution from the environment and to produce natural oxygen, but the government does not make any plan to prevent forest fires every year.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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