Peshawar           -        Chief Secretary (CS) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr. Kazim Niaz on Sunday said the provincial government was determined to grow and protect more forests in accordance with the prime Minister’s vision with the help and support of the Prime Minister’s Tigers Force.

He warned that timber mafia as well as all those found involved in illicit tree cutting or depletion of forests including the government departments would not be spared at any level and would be awarded exemplary punishments under the law.

Eulogizing the zeal and spirit shown by the Tigers Force for supporting Corona-control activities carried out by the government departments, he said that involving the force in tree plantation campaign was a part of Prime Minister’s vision for formally institutionalizing tiger force establishment which, he added, would enable them to contribute social services to the society for achieving any national cause like plantation and protection of trees, disease control, rescue activities in case of natural calamities and public awareness on volunteer basis.

Addressing the launching ceremonies of tree plantation campaign at Abbottabad, Mansehra Haripur, and a briefing about Hazara Afforestation Drive, the KP chief secretary said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had acknowledged the services rendered by the Tiger Force for making Covid-19 preventive measures a success and aspired for permanently engaging these volunteers to achieve social causes in future as well.

Speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, Provincial Food Minister Haji Qalander Khan Lodhi, Secretary Health Syed Imtiaz hussain Shah, Commissioner Hazara Riaz Khan Mahsud, Regional Police Officer Qazi Jamil-ur-Rahman, MNA Ali Khan Jadoon, Conservator Forests Azhar Mahmood, concerned deputy commissioners and other officers, members of the Tiger Force and social welfare organizations were also present on the occasion.

Expressing concern over illegal cutting of trees in various parts of the province, Dr. Niaz warned that illicit cutting would not be tolerated and besides teaching a lesson to timber mafia concerned departments would also be held responsible for such undesirable and illegal practices. He said actions against timber mafia and their accomplices in the departments would be exemplary.

Directing Commissioner Hazara and Forests Department to take stern action on illegal chopping of trees, he assured that full support from the public representatives would be available to them for this purpose as all present legislators from Hazara Division were committed to protection of forests and sustainable growth thereof.

He said the provincial government in its previous five-year tenure had remarkably achieved its targets under Billion Tree Tsunami Programme which was also recognized by WWF and other third-party international monitoring and evaluation agencies and now it was responsibility of the Environment Department to protect those more than one billion saplings/trees planted under the programme.

The CS said that Prime Minister had given a target of half a million-tree plantation to KP government but we had raised it to 3.5 million and more than 1.2 million saplings were being planted in Hazara division only during today’s drive.

He said collective efforts for growing and protecting trees would definitely be proved fruitful as the political leadership and district administration were also playing a pivotal role in their respective areas while the Chief Minister Mahmood Khan was personally patronizing the campaign across the board.

Talking about the problems and difficulties being faced by Forests Department in connection with demands of owners of Guzara Forests, the Chief Secretary assured that a meeting of Hazara and Malakand Forests Department would soon be convened to discuss ways and means to overcome the issues.

Briefing the CS, Commissioner Hazar Riaz Mahsud and Conservator Forests Azhar Mahmood told that plan for the massive plantation drive in Hazara Division was chalked out before Eid and so far 883,979 saplings had been planted in the region while remaining target would also be achieved.