GUJAR KHAN, Aug 29: Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil is facing serious threat of environmental degradation owing to large scale deforestation, spreading salinity and rising pollution caused by two cement factories in the area.

Pind Dadan Khan tehsil had been the divisional headquarters in the pre-partition era and then it was a prospering area due to its highly fertile land located on the banks of Jhelum River near the mineral-rich Salt Range.

Pind Dadan Khan was also famous for manufacturing of boats, furniture and other handicrafts. But with the turn of the tide, Pind Dadan Khan lost its glory and now this tehsil headquarters is surrounded by infertile land.

Population of the tehsil has decreased significantly due to large scale migration to other towns and this trend continues as salinity is hitting more and more agricultural land.

Unorganised excavation of the Salt Range and open dumping of excavated salt at different places including the railway station are the major reasons behind the spread of salinity.

Rainwater flowing down the Salt Range carries with it highly concentrated saline content to the plains upto the Jhelum River, and wherever this water passes it devastates cultivated farms and makes these sterile for the coming years.

The salinity based environmental hazards are being multiplied by large scale deforestation. Timber mafia is very active in the area and exploits the poverty ridden landowners.

Trees at the Salt Range and the plains are falling victim to the exploitation, while the forest department has turned a blind eye to this colossal loss to the greenery in the area.

Almost at every other town or village a number of chainsaws are seen operating amid huge heaps of tree trunks.

Officials of the forest department instead of checking the illegal activity are seen aiding the mafia.

According to reliable sources, the forest guards in these areas are involved in secret sale of sesame trees planted along the highways and those which had fallen during the recent floods.

The two cement factories - one near Khewra and the other at Gharibwaal - are the major source of environmental pollution in the area. These factories continue to spew out dust into the air right across the residential areas.

Respiratory and other maladies are common among the dwellers, but the factory owners never bother to adopt preventive measures.

The Ministry of Environment, according to the residents, was totally neglecting the environmental destruction throughout the tehsil.