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Deodar trees worth Rs20 million missing from Arandu

PESHAWAR: Around 20 million rupees specious deodar trees of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department are missing in the Arandu area of Chitral.

Sources said that the illegal cutting of 5,907 cft wood has also created a tug of war between Forest Department and its subordinate Forest Development Corporation (FDC).

Forest Department fixed responsibility of the missing trees on FDC and issued show-cause notices for the recovery of the amount.

On the other hand, the FDC has rejected the allegations declaring it a conspiracy against corporation to make it scapegoat.

Also read: Chitral forest a windfall for timber mafia

Special Secretary Forest, Zarif ul Maani, told this scribe that the case is already sub-judice and he cannot comment because secretary forest has also been included in respondents list.

He confirmed that the department will not take any adverse action against officials of FDC till the actual determination of damage and fixation of liabilities as ordered by the High Court Mingora bench.

It is pertinent that MD FDC was transferred and posted as Chief conservator Forest Hazara and additional charge was given to Special Secretary Forest. Market rate of deodar is between 4 to 5 thousand cubic feet.

According to documents available with The News, an agreement was signed between Forest Department and FDC for the harvesting of trees from 27 to 31 compartments of Arndu on September 28, 2011 but the PTI government had banned harvesting and transportation of all type of wood in June 2014.

The FDC has advertised fresh tender for the harvesting and sale of trees because the main contractor Abdul Rehman died during the ban. During this period 31 Deodar trees measuring 5907 cft were stolen from the compartment no 31.

Forest Department has sent a committee to investigate the matter and they fixed the responsibility upon FDC officers and staff under clause 10-A of the agreement.

Forest Department had issued show-cause notices to MD FDC, GM FDC, Forest officer operations and Deputy Forest Manager Chitral and held them responsible for illicit cutting of 49 trees of Deodar.

According to a letter issued by Conservator Forest Malakand No 4465 on April 3, 2019 to MD FDC that a committee was constituted including FDC staff and local elders, who visited the said comportment No 31 on March 17, 2018 had confirmed that 19 fresh trees measuring 258 and 30 old trees of Deodar measuring 3326 cft are missing.

It was further stated in the letter that no further authentication is required because during joint checking all stakeholders were present including the Chief Conservator of Forests, Forest Region 111 Swat, Conservator of Forests, Malakand Forest East circle, Divisional forest officer Chitral and deputy forest manager FDC Chitral.

Keeping in view the FDC has violated the agreement and responsible for missing of trees and resultantly, Forest Department served show-cause and recovery notices to the FDC officials.

According to documents, FDC was asked to pay 16, 53,960 rupees as value of 5907 cft Deodar Timber @Rs 280 per cft and five time fine of 82, 69, 800 rupees. FDC was directed to deposit total amount of rupees 99, 23,760/.

On the other hand, the FDC has got stay orders from the court of Civil Judge Chitral to restrain the Forest Department from any adverse action against any official of the FDC. However, later on District and Session Judge Chitral has accepted the application of Forest Department and set aside the Civil Judge orders.

The FDC has further approached the Peshawar High Court Mingora bench. The PHC Mingora bench has accepted the FDC application and set aside the Session Court orders on February 15, 2019.

A single bench headed by Justice Muhammad Ghazanfar Khan disposed of the petition on a consensus developed that Forest Department shall not take any adverse action against any official of the FDC on the basis of show-cause notice until actual determination of damage and fixation of liability is made.

Meanwhile, the former MD FDC Sher Nawaz Khan has sent a detailed letter to Secretary Forestry and Environment on April 16, 2018, declaring the allegations as baseless and a conspiracy against the corporation. It is apprehended that the Forest Department without sharing the findings of inquiry report with FDC are declaring the trees missing.

He further stated that the department has taken action in haste and make FDC scapegoat the uncommitted sin and report is made on the pretext for manipulation/ stoppage of Arndu policy under immense pressure from public and agencies. An impartial checking committee may be constituted for the physical check of the compartment no 31.

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