SWAT: The members of civil society and social activists have expressed their concerns over illegal logging in the forest area between Anakar and Janshai Banda, saying authorities are yet to take effective steps to halt this unlawful activity despite numerous complaints.
They said that the illegal chopping of precious trees in Anakar area of Kalam had been under way for a long time. “Last year, when we were going to Janshai Banda, we found that dozens of trees were cut down and were being shifted to Kalam in the darkness of night,” they said.
They said that they had not only complained about the issue but also posted photos of the chopped trees on social media.
Naseer Ahmad, a social activist, said that he was shocked to see the vast scale of forest cutting in Anakar area. “The forest is situated in a remote area with limited human mobility. It has provided a conducive environment for the local timber mafia to engage in illicit logging activities even in broad daylight,” he said. He said that due to the extensive cutting, the forest dwindled in size. If the illegal activity was not stopped, the forest would vanish, he added.
Another social activist of Swat said that illegal forest cutting increased during the tenure of caretaker government.
“Illegal tree felling in upper Swat has persistently continued, although it is worth noting that it experienced a slowdown during the previous government’s tenure. Currently, wherever we embark on hiking and trekking expeditions, we see extensive deforestation activities,” said Khalid Khan, an activist, who takes part in planting trees every year in Swat.
The social activists also shared videos and images depicting recent forest logging on their social media profiles, provoking outrage among locals. They said they would soon devise a plan to protest the increasing forest cutting, especially in upper Swat.
Sadiq Ali, the divisional forest officer (DFO), when contacted, said that there was no unauthorised tree cutting in the region. He said that forest guards were performing their responsibilities efficiently.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2023