Residents of Malam Jabba rally to save their dwindling forests
By: Fazal Khaliq
SWAT: Thousands of people from ten tribes based in the Malam Jabba region on Sunday rallied against timber smugglers and illegal logging, denuding the forests of Swat.
The angry protesters held placards inscribed with slogans demanding help in saving their forests and were chanting slogans against the parties involved. They demanded strict action against timber smugglers and illegal loggers involved.
“An influential group from the Bishbanr area has been cutting the forest of Malam Jabba regularly for long time. During Taliban rule in 2008, the group collaborated with the Taliban and ruthlessly chopped down the forest and converted it into a barren field,” said Dr Dildar Hussain, a resident of Malam Jabba.
He added that the group is not only cutting the precious forests on government land, but is also defacing the beauty of the area.
Malam Jabba is one of the most scenic tourist resorts in Pakistan, attracting thousands of tourists every year. Most of the area is made up of thick forests and lush meadows. It is also the only ski resort in Pakistan, which has played host to a number of international-level ski events.
“The tourists come here every year to enjoy the natural beauty and dense cedar forests, which are fading fast due to illegal cutting. At this rate the area will soon lie bare. It will lose its charm,” Sharif Khan, another resident of the area, said.
He also said that the groups involved in illegal logging are notorious in the area and have been fined several times by the forest department, without much effect.
The protesters said timber smugglers fell hundreds of trees daily and smuggle them through secret routes constructed specifically for smuggling timber. “The timber mafia has machinery to bring down hundreds of trees in just 30 minutes. They transport four trucks full of wood worth million of rupees every night,” Sharifullah added.
Manzoor Ahmad, the concerned Sub-divisional Magistrate, said there are two groups involved in the activity.
“We have set up a local jirga to talk to them. The meeting will be held soon. We will take strict action against those found involved in illegal logging in the forest,” he added.