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    Khost forests shrink, thanks to illegal logging

    KHOST CITY (PAN): Agriculture officials in southeastern Khost province say that 65 percent of forests have been destroyed as a result of illegal logging.

    Many forests have disappeared over the last three decades of conflict and deforestation in this province, bordering Pakistan, was on the rise, Agriculture and Livestock Department official Mir Afzal said.

    Deforestation would create problems if the government did not stop the menace, he warned, identifying unemployment and economic constraints of residents as the main causes.

    "Loggers have been felling trees unprofessionally and carelessly. We have informed the government several times, but no remedial steps have so far been taken," he added.

    According to a survey conducted three decades ago, Paktia, Paktika and Khost had the second largest forest cover.

    More than 36,500 acres of land in Paktia, Paktika and Khost is covered with forests. About two million cubic meters of wood has so far been collected from the forests.

    Most of the forests are located in Qalandar, Sabari, Baak, Dwamanda, Tanai, Musakhel, and Sapera districts of Khost, according to officials.

    A Qalandar district community council member, Gulab Mangal, said residents had no other source of meeting their fuel needs. "The government should launch reconstruction projects in the forested areas to prevent illegal logging," he suggested. 

    An official of the Environment Protection Agency, Mohammad Ali, said deforestation would have a negative impact on environment of Khost.

    The main cause of recent floods, which caused huge losses, was deforestation, Ali said, adding residents of remote areas should be convinced to plant trees instead of cutting them.

    The ministry concerned should help people plant trees in far-flung villages. As long as the government did not provide job opportunities for residents, the deforestation problem would persist, the authorities acknowledged.