On the one side the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government is trying to plant trees and on the other the existing forest cover has been on the decline and at the mercy of timber mafia.

With the start of autumn, the cutting of trees in the mountains of Shawal, Razmak and Paryat in North Waziristan tribal district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has been in full swing once again without inviting attention from the departments concerned.

Talking to The Express Tribune a local resident said that the autumn in the area is unusually harsh and local people can’t afford the LPG cylinders due to which they have no option but to go to the forest and cut tree for use as firewood.

“The people are hit hard by militancy and the subsequent operations as well as lack of job opportunities in the area so they can’t afford the purchase of LPG or charcoal or kerosene oil. Local forests are the cheapest way of firewood,” said another local resident, adding that local communities were dependent on the forest since day first but it was also true that the size of the local forests was shrinking with the passage of time.

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner North Waziristan tribal district Shahid Ali Khan said that they had received information about the cutting of green trees in the area and he had directed the assistant commissioner (AC) Razmak to take action against those involved.

He said that several trucks laden with wood had been seized and an FIR had been registered against them.

He said that 23 people have been arrested so far.

A member of civil society said that it was true that the local population had no other option available to them due to higher inflation but cutting green trees was also unjust.

“In the past only dead trees were cut by farmers and small and green trees were protected but it is no more the case,” he said, adding that the government and the Forest Department should create awareness among the local communities in this regard.

He suggested provision of LPG cylinders to local people on subsidized rates to help them reduce the use of wood.

It is worth mentioning here that in the past North Waziristan was 85 per cent covered in forests but in the past decade this coverage has been reduced to 70 per cent.

In the summers trees are cut on large scale and wood is used for making charcoal which is in higher demand in neighbouring Afghanistan. In the winters, local famers cut trees so the deforestation process has been going on with an increased pace.