STAFF REPORT ABBOTTABAD: The Forest Department seems helpless as the timber mafia has continued to cut precious and old pine and cedar trees in Thandiani and Galiyat forest ranges.

Officials of the Forest Department lack the will, equipment and resources to check deforestation and they often suffer physical assault by the well-organised local groups of timber mafia who enjoy backing of influential political figures.The illegal wood cutting and timber smuggling is considered a minor crime by the police and hence smugglers get away by paying a small amount of fine instead of imprisonment.

In the absence of proper law against deforestation and harsh punishment, deforestation in Hazara has continued unabated.

The illegal cutting of wood for commercial purposes is at its peak in winter and snowy season because most roads and tracks in the forested areas of upper Galiyat are inaccessible.An official of the Forest Department told the media, “We are up against not only the timber mafia but certain police officials who provide full protection to the timber smugglers.”

Thick forests in upper parts of Hazara are getting thinner by the day. Influential political figures are protecting timber mafia for getting their share in the illegal business.

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