An illegally cut tree in Shalpin Khwazakhela forest. — Dawn
An illegally cut tree in Shalpin Khwazakhela forest. — Dawn

SWAT: Social activists and youths here on Friday urgedthe forest department to check illegal tree felling.

They told Dawn that a large number of trees were unlawfully cut down in Compartment Number 8 of the Kiringal Shalpin area of Khwazakhela tehsil.

The activists said the illegal activity had threatened the local forests, and therefore, they were committed to checking it.

They said the felling of precious trees had become a thriving business, leaving the once lush green landscapes of Swat “nearly barren.”

“We can’t be just bystanders when our forests are pillaged,” youngster Syed Akbar Shah told Dawn.

Threaten street protests

Accompanied by youth men Rafiullah, Nisar Ahmad, Nazeer Ahmad, and Mohammad Jameel, he said they and social activists were committed to protecting Swat’s natural heritage from “unchecked exploitation.”

Mr Shah said the rampant deforestation exacerbated climate change, leading to a high incidence of floods in the region.

He called for immediate action to address the root causes of environmental degradation.

“The urgency to act against the timber ‘mafia’ cannot be overstated,” he said.

The youth of Khwazakhela urged authorities to step in without delay to check the activities threatening biodiversity in the region.

They said that they would first stage rallies in the area against the illegal felling of forest trees and would extend them to the entire district afterwards.

“We [youth] will convene a meeting soon to finalise our plans to block roads against both timber ‘mafia’ and the forest department over illegal tree felling,” a youngster said.

He said that the local youth were really disappointed to see the illegal felling of forests on a large scale, though the forest minister hailed from the Swat region.

“The illegal tree felling proliferated under his [minister’s] tenure. It is an appalling development,” he said.

When contacted, forest officer in Upper Swat Mohammad Waseem denied the “involvement of the timber mafia in tree felling” and insisted that the residents were chopping down trees for personal use.

“We have initiated legal proceedings against several individuals over their involvement in this illegal activity. Our range officer will soon visit the area to collect evidence,” he said.

The official said that appropriate action would be taken against the offenders afterwards.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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