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    Officials accused of destroying orchards

    JALALABAD (PAN): Government-owned orchards are being felled illegally by officials in the Batikot district of eastern Nangarhar province, residents complain.

    Guards and security officials are axing and selling the trees, a shopkeeper told Pajhwok Afghan News. The district police chief alone has taken four firewood-laden vehicles from the Third Farm area, Badam Gul alleged.

    But the police officer, Mohibullah Momand, emphatically denied the allegation as baseless, saying that he had never taken wood from the area.

    A resident of the neighbourhood grumbled: “New saplings have not been planted in recent years, but old trees are being sold by farm officials and guards.”

    Saqibullah claimed Taliban were more concerned on the issue, announcing that anyone hewing the trees should be put to death. The trees were brought down in large numbers with power saws, he added.

    A firewood stall owner in the Hafiz Kudai bazaar of the district, Khan, acknowledged cutting trees several times for local officials. “I also work as a daily wager, using my power saw to chop down trees for people.”

    “Only the Nangarhar Valley Development Authority director can allow tree felling on the farms; no one else can grant permission for this,” explained the police commander for the farm, Amanullah.

    The district chief, Mirza Hamidullah, acknowledged the cutting of trees. But he denied receiving complaints about government officials’ involvement.

    The valley protection department is trying its best to protect each tree, according to the police commander at the department. Maj. Hidayat said he had not received any complaint in this regard.

    But Eng. Ziarat Gul Rahil, the director of valley development, accused unnamed security officials of cutting the trees illegally. He said his department would never allow anyone to damage the farms, a national asset.

    The Nangarhar Valley Development Authority is in charge of 2,500 hectares of land and has 900 workers for looking after citrus, pomegranate, olive, eucalyptus and coniferous farms.

    myn/mud



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