Answer sought from the government regarding the demand for judicial inquiry into the forest fire

Peshawar: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday sought the response of the provincial government on a petition seeking a judicial inquiry into forest fires in several forest areas.

A bench of Chief Justice Kaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Shakeel Ahmed issued notice for the purpose after preliminary hearing on a petition which claimed that more than 200 forest fires had destroyed thousands of acres in the province for more than a month. More forests and pastures have been damaged.

Another petition filed by Abdul Razzaq of Chitral is already pending in the court, seeking a direction to the government to introduce alternative sources of energy for domestic use in forest areas instead of wood.

The petitioner’s counsel Malik Ajmal Khan said that since last month several fires broke out in forest areas across the province, causing widespread destruction.

He said that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, so it is necessary to conduct a judicial inquiry into the incidents.

The bench said that the forest department has submitted the report sought on the issue to it. It asked the counsel for the petitioner to examine the report.

Additional Advocate General Syed Sikandar Hayat Shah said the report clearly explained the reasons for those forest fires.

He said that after the submission of that report, there does not appear to be any need for a judicial inquiry.

The bench asked the AAG to file the government’s reply on the plea.

It heard Abdul Razzaq’s main petition as well as two other forest and environmental petitions.

The petitions were filed by barrister Adnan Khan and Chitral resident Rajitu Billah respectively.

Regarding alternative sources of energy, Engineer Asif Kamal Shah, Project Director (Solar) of Pakhtunkhwa Urja Vikas Sangathan informed the bench that solarisation of 8,000 government schools and 2,000 mosques has been completed so far.

He said that another project of solarization of about 2,000 mosques in tribal districts is also in progress, which will help in energy conservation.

Mr Shah claimed that the Asian Development Bank had initiated the solarisation project.

Regarding the court’s proposal regarding the introduction of windmill technology, he said such projects would not be successful in the province as the wind mostly comes from the oceans and it would have less pressure once it reached areas like Dera Ismail Khan.

Pedo Director (Mini-Hydral Projects) Faisal Aziz Dawar said that so far 316 micro-power projects have been completed in the province, generating 28.3 MW of electricity.

He said 291 such projects are in the pipeline to generate 47 MW of power.

Mr Davar said Pedo did not make any profit through those projects and handed it over to the local population.

He said the money generated from those projects was mostly used for the maintenance of the unit and payment of salaries to the employees concerned.

The bench directed the officials to submit a detailed report on the matter and adjourn the hearing.

Petitioner Abdul Razzaq has challenged the felling of trees for domestic use in mountain forest areas especially during winter season and has sought a court order from the concerned authorities to investigate the practice.

Similarly, petitioner Razitu Billah, represented by advocate Sher Haider Khan, has challenged the shelving of a government project for supply of liquefied petroleum gas to various areas of Lower Chitral district.

Published in Dawn, June 22, 2022