JALALABAD (PAN, officials and residents claim.
Powerful individuals have been involved in the roaring business, a member of the provincial council, Inayatur Rahman Mazhabyar, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The timber is taken to Pakistan in broad daylight on the back of mules and camels through smuggling routes in Nuristan and Kunar province, he said.
Mazhabyar added the provincial council had time and again discussed the issue with regional organs and interior and agriculture ministries, but no action had been taken so far.
In Nuristan, Want Waigal, Kamdesh, Barg-i-Matal and some other central areas boast of thick forests. Pakistani traders frequent the areas and buy timber at cheap prices from locals.
Locals use power saws to chop down trees for smuggling into Pakistan. A tribal elder from eastern Nuristan said forests were being cut mercilessly in Kamdesh and Barg-i-Matal districts.
Without naming anyone, Jamil accused some powerful individuals of being involved in the illegal practice that was harming the environment, because forests served as a shield against natural disasters.
The elder asked provincial officials and the central government to prevent illegal cutting of forests in the province and stop timber smuggling into Pakistan.
However, Nuristan Agriculture Director Jafar Khan Amirzai rejected the claims as baseless, saying no one could dare illegally cut trees in the province. He said his department allowed only the cutting of dried trees.
Governor Tamim Nuristan said deforestation could not be prevented due to a shortage of security personnel in the militancy-plagued province.
He said interior and agriculture ministries had been asked to deploy special forces for the protection of forests in Nuristan, following the precedent set up in Nangarhar.
Police chief Ghulamullah Nuristani said a joint commission was created in Paroon, the provincial capital, on Monday to preserve the fast-depleting forest cover.
The commission is comprised of officials from the governor’s house, agriculture department, police, intelligence, attorney office and other government departments.
The police chief alleged residents, at the behest of foreigners, were cutting trees in Kamdesh, Barg-i-Matal, Thithigal, Gowardesh, Saryed and Bazigal areas.
However, he believed residents had realised the fact that forests helped prevent floods and safeguarded the natural resources and environmental services people relied on.
Floods caused residents heavy losses over the past decade, he recalled. He explained the trees had started growing back from their stumps and once they grew well, they would be protected with help from residents.
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