Wildfire destroys forest in Haripur as fire-fighters continue efforts

haripur   –   Trees at hundreds of acres were reduced to ashes in the Makhniyal forest of Khanpur tehsil, local sources said on Sunday.

Also, the high pressure of wind is feared to cause more damage to the forest as the vast area was still under heavy fire till the filing of this report.

“Hundreds of mature trees and small plants at 70% of the forest area, both reserved and private, have been destroyed and the rest of the area is also expected to be torched if the emergency measures are not taken,” said Mateen Abbasi, a youth councillor from Neelan Bhoto village council, while speaking to journalists.

Sharing some pictures depicting the situation of fire, Abbasi said the fire started four days ago in his area and was still wreaking havoc to the green gold of forest burning down both reserved and guzara (private) forests. He said that Khariyan, Banth, Ariyala and a couple of other forest areas were still on fire and the volunteers were engaged in putting out the wildfire but to no avail, as the flames were billowing and the fire was travelling to neighbouring areas at a fast pace with the blowing winds.

Speaking to media persons, an office-bearer of Makhniyal Tahfuz Movement Fayaz Mughal said the fire started from compartment 11 and 12 of Pakshahi forest area and engulfed the entire area and despite repeated messages to Deputy Commissioner Haripur, Assistant Commissioner Khanpur and officials of the Forest Department, no effective fire-fighting steps were taken due to which 80% of the forest area in village Council Hally, VC Muslim Abad, VC Barkot and VC Neelan Bhoto has been on fire for the last four days.

He also accused the Forest Department officials of negligence, which destroyed the forested area and killed hundreds of birds and wildlife too.

Meanwhile, the Sub Divisional Forest Officer for Makhniyal, Zohaib Khan, said that the fire started from an unknown point in the Margalla Hills, which is the limits of bordering Capital Development Authority, Islamabad on Friday and due to heavy winds, it travelled to the forested area of Haripur district.

He said that although he had 25,000 acres of forestland in his area, there were only 50 officials and volunteers engaged in putting out the inferno. He said that currently there were two private forest areas called Neelan Bhoto and Pakshahi where the fire was still causing destruction but he claimed his staff and volunteers were struggling to put out the fire.

He claimed that there was no damage to matured pine trees in the reserved forest areas; however, new small trees were destroyed at an area of 10 to 15 hectares and that too was in private forest area.

He said that seasonal fire season usually starts from 15 May and lasts till July 15 every year but this time this season started from mid of the April due to changes in weather conditions.

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