Timber Mafia in KP & AJK– Critical Analysis

  1. There are capacity issues on part of government functionary. First of all they are unaware of their legal role, the inherent powers they have. There is also another issue that the functionaries are not well equipped to fight with organized and well equipped mafia dens. In order to save their lives they choose not to stop them.
  2. Charm and money and greed to earn more are among the major reasons of this collusion. Other than that the lax system of accountability adds to it as the public functionaries are well aware that there is no defined mechanism under which they would be held responsible. One of the other reasons is non presence of electronic media in the area. although the incidents are highlighted in print media but in current times the role of electronic media cannot be neglected in public awareness and accountability.
  • The natural disasters and manmade disasters have also contributed in illegal timber trade as its very easy for the public functionaries to hide their wrong doings in garb of the disasters.

CONCLUSION

Forests which play an important role in national economy and which also provides shield against the natural disasters are not been duly protected in Pakistan especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir. The increasing trends of increase in atmospheric pressure and high frequency of occurrence of disasters are mainly attributed to deforestation in Pakistan. It is alarming that the rate of deforestation in Pakistan is highest in the world.

If proper timely measures are not taken to stop the rapid illegal deforestation , then the time is not far away that there would hardly be any noticeable forest areas. Public functionaries whose responsibility is to safeguard the forests instead of playing their legal official role have sided with the timber mafia and people involved in this illegal business.

The locals who have major share in some of the forests areas are also playing havoc by illegally felling the trees to gain short term benefits. They are not aware of the facts that they are creating greater problems for themselves and as well as for their future generations.

There is no organized mechanism to check this menace of illegal timber business. We are rapidly approaching a big environmental disaster and if no immediate remedial and corrective action is taken then the time is not very far away when we may suffer such collosal loss that the recovery would not be possible.

The Talibans who have settled in Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have taken illegal timber business as a ways and means to sponsor their terrorist activities and the timber mafia has flourished during their tenure. It is estimated that more than 500,000 young and mature live trees were brutally routed during those dark times and that has obviously caused irreparable loss.

It is unjust to blame any single category of person for the illegal timber trade but if have to point out any single faction of the society who are the major contributor than it is obviously without the second thought the public functionaries who were the safeguard of these forests but have betrayed the country for minor monetary gains. They were well aware about the importance of the forests and were also cognizant of the consequences but knowingly the would be devastation they have chosen to side the ruthless timber mafia.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. First and foremost recommendation is mass sensitization or public awareness campaigns regarding the role of forests and the would be effects in shape of disasters if the deforestation is not stopped. It should be done through the media, community based organizations, philanthropists. If the message is properly conveyed to the local population then the chances of their siding with the timber mafia would be minimize and they would play important role in informing and stopping the illegal acts of omission and commission.
  2. The local population must also be well informed that they have the 60-80% rights in the royalty of the income generated from these forests and by siding with the timber mafia they themselves are at loss by losing handsome share. There is a bright possibility that they may understand the econometrics.
  • There is also a need to revamp the forests department. Young energetic and preferably locals be recruited in the department. They should also be equipped with necessary arms so as to counter the timber mafia with equal force. For financing the options of financial support from WWF and Green Peace can be explored.
  1. The Forest laws needs to be amended to bring in conformity with the current crucial times. Role, responsibilities, duties and penalties for forests department and other allied and line departments should be given special attention.
  2. For the follow up of court cases relating to forest issue, a dedicated wing in prosecution departments be established which should work on district level under the guidance and supervision of District & Sessions Judge.
  3. Side by side check posts at roads and highways, watch points should also be established at major water ways like Mangla, Tarbaila, Chitral river etc to check movement of illegal timber.
  • The furniture manufacturing industry be taken into confidence and be requested to purchase only legal wood and they may also be required to furnish certificate on monthly basis that they have purchased the timber from legal sources.
  • There must be a clear policy on government’s sale of timber. The rates offered may also be revised and should be in line with the prevalent market rates.
  1. In case of any natural disaster or manmade disaster such as floods, earth quake or fire, proper inventory of forests be taken and in case if it is suspected that the causes of incident are not natural or the inventory is not complete then proper inquiry be held.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ashraf, M. Forest Policy, Tenure, and Legislation. Background Paper for Forestry Sector Master Plan of Pakistan. Islamabad: Government of Pakistan, 1992.

Azhar, R. A. “Commons, Regulations, and Rent-seeking Behaviour: The Dilemma of Pakistan’s Guzara Forests. Economic Development and Cultural Change.” 1993.

beat, Reporter. “Pakistan Observer.” Pakistan Observer, 2012.

FAO. 2001.

FERN. “Controlling Imports of illegal timber; options for Europe.”

Haq, Ayesha Tammy. Pakistan daily Express Tribune Newpaper .

Hasan, Lubna. “An Anatomy of State Failures in the Forest Management in Pakistan.”

ITTO. International Tropical Timber Organization. www.itto.int.

Khyber. Khyber Organization. www.khyber.org.

Pakistan. “Forestry Sector Master Plan.” 1992.

Peace, Green. Green Peace Russia. www.greenpeace.org.

Reporter, Staff. The News International, 2012.

WWF. World Wild Fund International. www.worldwildlife.org.

[1] Lubna Hasan from the book “An anatomy of State failures in the forest management in Pakistan

[2] FAO (2001)

[3] Total forest area of Pakistan is a mere 4.2 million ha, which is 4.8% of total land area.

[4] In 1998, the total wood consumption in Pakistan was 33,018 thousand cubic metres. Total wood produced was only 350 thousand cubic metres [Compendium on Environment Statistics (1998)].

[5] This view is reflected in the Forestry Sector Master Plan (1992). It is prepared with help of Asian Development Bank and is considered as the first comprehensive plan for forestry sector.

[6] This estimate is taken from the Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) (1992).

[7] Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AZAD JAMMU & KASHMIR) is not a separate Province. Its status is of an independent state.

[8] This system evolved out of necessity because a permanent cover had to be kept on steep slopes.

[9] Prior to this Ordinance, the Forest Act of 1927 was the principal law regulating forestry.

[10] Enactment of forest legislation in the form of principal laws and acts used to be the subject of federal government. In 1973, the President of Pakistan authorized the Governors of the provinces to make adaptations of federal law under the constitution (notification no. SRO 1328(1) 73, dated September 1973). The provinces thus have full powers now to adapt and amend the previous federal laws on forestry and to make new ones.

[11] Forest Department has authority to regulate cutting in most of the private forests.

[12] Reserved forests are the strictest tenure class where locals have no rights, rather some privileges are granted as concessions which can ne taken away anytime.

[13] Only includes fallen wood, and does not imply lopping branches for fuelwood.

[14] These forests were the result of failure of government to demarcate disputed lands. This declaration was used as an interim device to extend legal cover to the disputed forests till the process of settlement can occur. In the protected forest, local are allowed fuelwood collection and timber for personal needs. They also have 60-80% share in the sale proceeds from timber.

[15] Un-classed Forests await their determination of legal classification. Meanwhile they are treated as protected forests. Resumed Forests came under government jurisdiction after the land reforms.

[16] Bulk of the Protected Forests is found in the Malakand division of Khber Pakhtunkhwa. Prior to this, these forests were the property of the rulers of the princely states of dir, Swat and Chitral.

[17] This news item has been published on following web site www.inp.net.pk/engdetail.asp?nid=23758

[18] This item was carried by the ‘Daily News International’ dated 27th May, 2012.

[19] This item was carried in ‘Express Tribunal’ dated 22nd April, 2012.

[20] Environmental News Service, dated January 25, 2010.

[21] This news item was published in daily ‘The News International’, dated February 19, 2011.

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