Illegal Timber poaching threatening extinction of rare trees in Kohistan

Illegal timber poaching in the Kohistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, is now threatening the extinction of some of the rare and beautiful forests in the region. Timber poaching, which rises to its peak in the winters, is often carried out at the auspices of the forest
department and the inept and corrupt forest officers who seldom go out to check their jurisdiction.

Kohistan region is famous for the Blue Pine, Deodar, Fir, Spruce and Chir Pine, some of the costliest wood in the world and is widely used as raw material for construction of building and houses.

Asif Khan who holds a masters in forestry, says the wood is sold at approximately Rs4,000 per feet, which is just enough to make a cup of tea.

“Since people have no fuel for cooking and heating, they have to cut wood from the forests. Everyone in all the villages’ burns deodar, one of the rarest species of trees in the world, especially in winter seasons,” said Azizur Rehman, a resident of Patrak

“The forest department is clearly ignoring the merciless logging and smuggling of wood,” he claimed.

Abdul Mastan, a resident of Barikot, accused forest guards of negligence on duty, saying that the timber mafia and the forest department both share guilt for widespread illegal logging.

“Local elders, timber mafia and the government, all of them are involved in this grave crime and all of them have their share in timber,” he claimed.

“If we can have gas supplied to our villages, we can overcome this problem and save the precious trees, which cost Rs4 million each,” he added.

When Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Forests and Environment Wajid Ali Khan was contacted, he said, “Locals have 94 per cent of the share in forests and hence it is their responsibility to control illegal logging, while the government has only 6 per cent

“It is important to supply gas to people in these areas. Fortunately, provision of gas till Timergara has been approved and it will be extended soon to Upper Dir as well,” he added.