Alhaj Muhammad Khan

For how long we could burn wood for fuel?

A.M. Khan

It was a good news widely hailed when the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, after the approval of the then government, notified consultancy services for mechanical design of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) air mix plants at Ayun, Dros and Chitral on 22nd July 2018.

At  a site first finalized after acquisition of land in Dros, while addressing the gathering the then MNA Iftikharuddin had said ‘the step will go a long way in protecting the depleting forest in the district’ and these plants are installed to alternate fuel shortage in Chitral.

This was a right decision and service for sustainable ecosystem in Chitral. As time transitioned after 2018 elections so these LPG projects stay afloat till December 24 last year, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) decided to shelve the LPG projects in Chitral shocked the general populace as the company, procuring requisite equipment on sites, had already started work on it.

Including PML-N and PPP leaders,  the activists of different parties condemned the decision and protested against the government’s decision in which a much needed project for Chitral was abandoned without considering the threatening deforestation and shortage of fuel products for the people in both districts of Chitral.

The deforestation of unmanaged forest cover, estimated to be 41,949 hectares, has badly damaged natural habitat and balance ecosystem, and the shortage of fuelwood skyrocketing prices every passing year. How important forest has become to mitigate climatic conditions and human needs can be better understood nowhere than in Chitral.  That would be no surprising few years later for those people who rely on the fuel wood coming from lower parts of Chitral could not afford burning wood at least as a fuel. Timber used for construction has become almost impossible for common man to buy in market. Hit by circumstances, many of the people those who could afford LPG have switched to using it limitedly in the areas where the supply points are available.

A study reports that almost 13pc population in Chitral (2003) are in places where they generate their ‘first hand money’ of living from forests, and 80pc of population depends on non-timber forest products. As estimated annually 20 to 25 metric tones forest wood is used for fuel in Chitral.

For a couple of days social media activists widely circulated the decision of meeting of ECC of the Cabinet summary on LPG air mix projects in which SNGPL instructed to abandon at Dros, Ayun and Chitral Town which has triggered a social and political reactions have registered their displeasure on it. MNA Abdul Akbar Chitrali also took this issue up in assembly session.

This outcry seems to surprise no other than the public, and rolling back a decision has been taken two months before is a magic wand we propose.  LPG projects are crucial for sustaining remaining forest cover and ecosystem in Chitral, and for government, at least during charged fever of senate elections, a question to be said in a minute.  

Now, we need to think and act to contribute in afforestation, prevent deforestation and alternating fuel usage in Chitral. 

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