PESHAWAR, May 5: British social worker Maureen Lines has appealed to PTI chairman Imran Khan and Chief Minister Parvez Khattak to impose a complete ban on the issuance of permits for transportation of logged wood out of the Kalash valleys.
Ms Lines, who is also the recipient of Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for extraordinary services rendered in the preservation and promotion of Kalash culture, has been working as a social worker and author who first arrived in Kalash area in 1980 and subsequently settled there. She set up the Kalash Environmental Protection Society and a British charity Hindu Kush Conservation Association. In a statement issued here on Monday , Ms. Lines who is currently residing in Birir Valley of Kalash she appealed to the PTI chairman and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to save Kalash valley from deforestation.
Ms. Maureen Lines, 77, who is a citizen of Pakistan, stated that due to unchecked tree cutting climate change has come to Kalash region with a vengeance. She said 2010 saw catastrophic floods in all 3 valleys. In summer of 2013, Rumbor again suffered – a school, a newly built bridge and numerous water channels were destroyed. The jeep track, which is the only life-line turned into a treacherous boulder strewn path. It remained un-negotiable for months and cost the life of a road worker. After a rain shower, the other night, dwellers of Birir were awakened by the thundering flood of the gol (nullah) which runs past my home. Twice that night the raging thunderstorm wrought havoc in its wake. After breaking down the retaining walls, the water from the gol, barely missed a school and homes and burst out into the main river and down the jeep track destroying fields and the forest cottage in its path. The jeep track is now destroyed in 4 places and inundated by the river. The village of Grubinsar above, where deforestation is more marked, was flooded by mud and water from the mountain-side which had poured through gaps in the few remaining trees.
The following day Maureen Lines called a meeting of the leaders of the affected Kalash community where she acted as the facilitator. The meeting agreed that tree cutting was destroying the environment. The permits for limited tree cutting are being misused and it proposed complete ban on any future permits for wood going out of the valleys and demanded reforestation of the highest slopes with Himalayan Cedar and lower ones with Holly Oak (indigenous species). Moreover, a list of names of known timber smugglers was also written down.
During the discussions it came to light that the timber mafia is deeply entrenched in the area. Certain blue-eyed individuals are given permits to cut mature trees. But what in fact happens is that since there are no more mature trees to be found, the permit holders in connivance with the forest dept. officials not only cut green trees but also go over the prescribed limit, said the statement issued by Ms. Maureen Lines.
Wood is then transported out of the valleys by bribing officials at every check-post. Most of it is sent to Chitral for furniture making or carried further down country. This practice has gone on unabated.
Ms Lines appealed that the poor Kalash community was being exploited by the timber mafia and they desperately needed the help of the government to put strict controls on the export of wood out of the valleys and on the timber smuggling. It is imperative for the survival of the Kalash people that steps should be taken to declare the Kalash region as a UNESCO Protected Zone, curb haphazard development and promote eco-tourism, the statement concluded.–Dawn]]>