KUNDUZ CITY - Agriculture officials say forest spread over more than 100 hectares of land in northern Kunduz province has been lost in just past three years due to illegal cutting of trees by residents and gunmen.
Kunduz has around 40,000 hectares of forests containing fruit and non-fruit bearing trees in Imam Sahib, Qala-i-Zal, Chahar Dara and Aliabad districts. The illegal cutting of trees was mostly occurred in Imam Sahib district, Azizullah Aimaq, provincial agriculture director, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Fruit bearing plants such as apply, plum, apricot and non-fruit trees like poplar, willow, sycamore, pistachio and others spread over more than 100 hectares of land had been cut down in the last three years, he said.
More than a tonne of firewood was illegally sold per day in local bazaar by residents and strongmen, the official claimed. "Forest trees are mostly being cut down by strongmen, illegal armed groups and sometimes by ordinary people. We have no executive force to prevent them. We need police cooperation in this regard," he added.
Aimaq said they had time and again advised locals not to destroy the forest, but strongmen breaking their promises continued to destroy the forest.
A resident of Kol Daman area of Imam Saheb district said in the past there had been a huge forest in the neighbourhood, but armed men cut the trees and sold them as timber. He said residents had been unable to prevent the gunmen from destroying the forest fearing their wrath.
"Area people also sometimes cut trees to use them as firewood," he said, adding if the deforestation was not prevented by security forces, the entire forest would disappear.
Provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Samiullah Qatrah said dozens of people had been so far detained on the charge of cutting trees and referred to judicial departments.
Provincial Afghan National Environment Protection Agency head Sadruddin Seyah said destroying forest had a negative impact on the environment.
"We have been informed that forests in some areas of Kunduz are being destroyed. Deforestation leads to migration of wild animals and birds," he added.
Wild animals such as wolves, jackals and foxes and birds such as parrot and hawks had decreased in number at forests due to cutting of trees, he said.