IT is heartening to read several letters in Dawn regarding the destruction of mangrove forests by the land mafia. I would like to draw the attention of the authorities concerned towards another similar problem. Thar faces large scale destruction of gugral (camiphora mukal) trees in all the four tehsils of Tharparkar district. The workers of highly influential local waderas have been destroying gugral trees/shrubs for the last couple of years by giving cuts to these trees through chemicals to extract gum resin. The destruction of this gum-yielding shrub, by tukka (chemical cut) method, is believed to be a major cause of desertification in Tharparkar, especially in Nagarparkar.

It is pertinent to mention here that the district administration has banned cutting or applying chemical to the trees such as kandi, kumbhat, khabar, roriro and neem. But the said mafia has been involved in destroying precious gugral trees in connivance with forest officials to obtain gum.

Another aspect, which is deplorable, is that members of the mafia who are destroying gugral trees do not allow poor locals to enter marked areas even to graze their livestock or to collect gum in a natural way without harming the ecosystem.

Gum is sold for Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 a 40 kg in Karachi and is used for incense and other commercial purposes. Despite the hue and cry raised by newspapers and civil society activists against destruction of gugral trees in Thar, waderas continue to destroy gugural trees, affecting the ecosystem.

There is need to take action against the mafia.