Badghis pistachio jungle in thick of deforestation
QALA-I-NAW (Pajhwok): The deforestation of a pistachio jungle in northwestern Badghis province is underway at the hands of local groups but security forces are unable to control the situation in the militancy-plagued area.
The pistachio forest is spread over an area of 95,000 hectares in a border area between Badghis and western Herat province. Over the past three years, at least 70 percent of pistachio trees have been chopped off.
Haji Shamsuddin, a resident of Pada Nokdari locality, told Pajhwok Afghan News around 800 pistachio trees had been cut as a result of a rivalry between two tribes. Powerful individuals, illegal armed groups and locals are also involved in felling the trees.
In order to save the jungle from further destruction, Shamsuddin suggested a ban on the movement of illegal armed groups and establishing security check-posts. The government, he said, should make sure availably of electricity, gas and other energy resources for locals.
Haji Mohammad Hassan, a resident of Daizangi area, said at least 800 pistachio trees were chopped off due to rivalry between ex Jihadi commander Bismillah and a sitting commander of Afghan Public Order Police in the area.
He said every pistachio tree produced 80 to 160 kilogrammes of pistachio annually.
Third battalion commander, Bismillah Mohammadi, said the pistachio jungle had been divided among tribes because of weak writ of the government.
“It is a matter of concern why people destroy public assets at a time when they benefit from them. I ask the ministry of agriculture to pay attention and tackle the issue immediately,” Mohammadi said.
Abdul Malik, another resident, said that the Ajrim area was also faced the same problem. “The pistachio jungle is not protected either by the locals or the government. It can generate good revenue if the government protects it,” he added.
The government has no control over the area due to heavy presence of militants’ and illegal armed groups, he said.
In the past people of the area had used the jungle as pasture but now around 10,000 families live there cutting the trees and use them as firewood, he added.
Ghulam Mohammad, acting agriculture director, confirmed that cutting of pistachio trees had been continued for years.
“The agriculture department has held seminars in order to create awareness among residents and elders to protect the jungles for their own interests,” he added.
Mohammad Qayyum Angar, the Badghis police chief, confirmed trees were being chopped off in far-flung areas. Police, he said, did not have access to the areas plagued by militancy.
Bahauddin, provincial council head, said they had taken initial steps to protect the pistachio jungles. “Through local elders, we want to protect these jungles.”
He expressed concern that with the cutting of pistachio trees future generations would be deprived of natural wealth. Gul Aqa, a resident, believed local elders could play a role in protecting the jungles.
Thousands of hectares of pistachio jungles also exist in Samangan and Kunduz provinces. Annually, Afghanistan earns millions of afghanis from pistachio exports.
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