PESHAWAR: Awami National Party Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Mian Iftikhar Hussain has condemned the massive deforestation in Malakand Division and accused authorities of encouraging the felling of trees instead of controlling it.

In a statement issued here, Mr Iftikhar said a legal cover had been provided to deforestation in the grab of the Woodlot Rules, 2017.

“The Woodlot Rules, 2017, violate international and national environmental protection laws. The government should change these anti-forest rules,” he said.

The ANP leader said Pakistan was facing the brunt of the climate change and relentless felling of trees.

“Deforestation is exacerbating environmental hazards,” he said.

Mian Iftikhar calls for changing ‘anti-forest’ rules

Mr Hussain said that the other countries were planting trees to address the issue of climate change but in Pakistan, forests were ruthlessly chopped down.

He said that civil society members in Swat recently protested deforestation.

“There are reports of deforestation in both private and government forests,” he said, alleging that the provincial government was working to eliminate forests.

The ANP leader said it was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to launch the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation programme but when the reports of corruption in the project began to appear, mysterious incidents of forest fires were reported all over the province.

He said that most of the forest fires took place in those areas, where trees were planted under the Billion Trees Tsunami afforestation programme.

Mr Hussain claimed that the forests in the province from Sulimain Mountain in Dera Ismail Khan to the mountains of Swat, Malakand and Buner had been burnt down.

He asked authorities if those incidents of forest fires were investigated and when the culprits would be brought to justice.

The ANP leader said that instead of responding to the reports of corruption in the Billion Tree Tsunami programme, authorities launched the Billion Tree Tsunami-Plus programme and allocated Rs122 billion in the next year budget for the project.

He said that people in the province knew that such projects were meant to make money.

“We will never tolerate this practice,” he said.

Mr Hussain said that authorities should take emergency steps to control deforestation and that the ANP would raise its voice against deforestation on every platform.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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