Strongmen out to grab Nangarhar orchardsBy Abdul Mueed Hashmi Feb 19, 2012 - 19:01
JALALABAD (PAN): Powerful mafia was out to destroy citrus and olive orchards in eastern Nangarhar province, an official alleged on Sunday, acknowledging the farms were in bad condition.
“Everyone must mourn over the poor condition of these farms,” Eng. Ziyarat Gul Rahil, the Nangarhar Valley Development Authority (NVDA) director, told Pajhwok Afghan News during an interview.
He said 680 hectares of the 2,500 hectares farms had been grabbed by powerful individuals and trees over 800 hectares chopped down over the past decade.
Rahil added he had been able to stop landgrab since he took over as NVDA director two month ago. “Strongmen are behind landgrab. This mafia is constructing houses on the farms at night and send women and children there in the morning.”
Relevant departments lacked unity on the issue, he deplored, saying when he arrested a land grabber, influential people threatened him and the government also sought the man’s immediate release, Rahil revealed.
Calling orchards a national asset, the director said in the past they would export 4,000 metric tonnes of pickles to Russia and olive oil to Italy annually. But the exports have significantly decreased.
“We had only 600 kilograms of pickles and oil this year from four olive farms having 700 trees,” Rahil said, adding ploughing the farms, spraying trees and providing them fertiliser had been impossible due to a dearth of funds.
Governor Gul Agha Sherzai said he had called several meetings on the issue of landgrab and reconstruction matters. He warned grabbers to vacate the lands the first week of April, saying security forces had already destroyed dozens of illegally constructed houses in Surkhrod district.