PESHAWAR, Oct 7: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa environment secretary and the wildlife department bosses are at loggerheads over the removal of dead and fallen trees from Abbottabad’s Ayubia National Park as ordered by the chief secretary.
The wildlife department has refused to follow the chief secretary’s orders considering them harmful to wildlife habitat, it is learnt.
Sources said a scuffle took place between the staff of park management and forest guards around a month ago when the environment secretary asked foresters to cut down trees over the park management’s refusal to act upon his orders to remove dead and fallen trees in line with the chief secretary’s orders.
They said employees of the park were beaten up by foresters, who outnumbered them.
According to them, the forest guards chopped down some trees, but logs have not been removed.
Environment secretary Said Badshah Bukhari said he had ordered inquiry against officials of the wildlife department, including the divisional forest officer, for not obeying his orders to remove dead trees.
“In fact, five trees have been cut down as they had slipped down the track, posing a threat to the life of visitors,” he told Dawn.
Officials at the wildlife department said the laws prohibited removal of trees, which could negatively affect the beauty of and wildlife habitats in the park.
A source said the environment secretary was briefed about the situation, but he insisted that the chief secretary’s orders should be followed.
Sources said chief secretary Capt (r) Ghulam Dastagir Akhtar ordered removal of dead and fallen trees from a track during a recent trip to Ayubia National Park.
They added that staff of the wildlife department, however, refused to remove trees from the track, which was developed in 1930.
Sources in wildlife department said dead and fallen trees in the park served as habitat for flying squirrels, which were endangered species.
They said trunks of fallen trees in the park had become sources of feeding for birds and other species.
According to them, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act, 1975 restricts any activities, including felling, tapping, burning or in any way damaging or destroying, taking, collecting or removing any plant or tree there from.
The law prohibits clearing or breaking up of any land for cultivation, mining or for any other purposes, and allows education, research and recreation activities inside the national park.
The sources said the government could relax laws for scientific purpose or betterment of the national park.
Ayubia National Park is a protected area of 3312 hectors declared a national park in 1984.
“Senior officers of the environment department don’t follow prescribed laws and this approach can negatively affect beauty of the park,” said an official at the department.
The environment secretary said the government could take initiatives for the betterment of the park as these trees posed serious threat to the life of visitors. “People could not walk on the track and I asked the management to remove trees,” he said.
The secretary environment’s action has also worried conservators and some organisations, including Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, have asked the provincial government to refrain from conducting activities inside the park.
Former chief conservator of the wildlife department Dr Mumtaz Malik told Dawn that national parks had been declared protected areas and no one could carry out unnecessary activities there.
“If such intervention continues, then the national park will lose its aims and objective,” he said. He said Ayubia National Park was an asset of the province and removal of trees could damage flora and fauna and wildlife habitats.