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Restriction on transportation causes fuelwood shortage in Chitral

CHITRAL: The district administration`s decision to not allow transportation of oak wood without permit in order to regulate its price has resulted in the timber`s shortage in Chitral, where its use for cooking and heating purposes increases manifold in winter.

Almost all the stalls in the city selling the oak wood have run out of the timber as the supply from the oak forests in southern parts of Chitral, including Damel, Sheshi Koh, Arsoon and Arandu, has stopped.

The stall holders complained that the short supply was because the district administration had barred them from directly purchasing the wood from the forest owners.

As per the new policy put in place by the local administration, permits are issued from the office of assistant commissioners and deputy commissioner to the stall owners to transport the oak wood from the forest to the market and sell it on controlled rate of Rs450 per 40kg. A stall holder, Rahim Bai, told Dawn that the price was not rationalised and impracticable as they could derive no profit because the rate of oak wood had increased manifold over the years.

However, he claimed that despite the strict ban on transportation of oak wood without permits, the forest owners managed to bring the commodity to the market on their own to sell it at rates as high as Rs550 per 40kg. He called for allowing transportation of the commodity to the market to help bring its price down.

Almost, every household uses oak wood for heating and cooking during winter as there is no other source of firewood. LPG price goes beyond the reach of poor people as its availability becomes a problem with the closure of Lowari top due to snow.

There are other varietiesof woodlike deodar and fir, but these are mostly used in woodwork during construction of houses.

When contacted, Chitral DC Osama Ahmed Warraich told Dawn that the transportation of oak wood had been regulated to save the oak forest from being denuded. He said the prices had been fixed keeping in view the existing rates in the forest area, transportation cost and margin of the dealers. He said the stall owners would be dealt with stringently if they overcharged customers.

District nazim Maghfirat Shah, however, favoured the free transportation of the oak wood, which had been the practice in the past, to overcome its shortage in the market.

He said the district government was planning to make available alternative sources of heating during the winter season to mitigate the consumption of oak wood and save its forest from depletion. Correspondent