Inferno destroys forest around Bara Gali campus of University of Peshawar

Bara Gali Fire
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Several acres of land were destroyed when a fire broke out in a forest in Bara Gali in Abbottabad near the building of Bara Gali Summer Campus of University of Peshawar.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the police and forest officials said the inferno started on Saturday afternoon. It reduced trees and saplings to ashes. The incident compelled the forest officials to register a criminal case against the administration of the campus of UoP for acting negligently in the wake of the crisis.

The firefighters managed to control the inferno after 10 hours.

Starting point

Locals and police said the fire erupted at around 7pm from a dumping ground of solid waste near the building of Bara Gali Summer Campus of UoP. Subsequently, several acres of forest land were taken in the inferno’s fold.

“We called fire engines from the air force, Abbottabad Tehsil Municipal Administration and Galiyat Development Authority,” Bara Gali SHO Naseer Khan said while talking to The Express Tribune. “The firefighters managed to stop the fire at around 1am.”

The SHO added the fire spread to 40 acres of land. However, the campus building and its employees remained safe.

Negligence alleged

When contacted, the Gallies Forest Division Abbottabad District Forest Officer Sardar Muhammad Salim confirmed the incident.

He added there was a function organised by the varsity’s teachers and students to commemorate International Day for Biological Diversity when some officials or participants of the event set ablaze something from the heap of solid waste. Salim said the small fire turned into an inferno due to the negligence of UoP officials.

However, he said only two kail trees while several one-year-old trees were burnt.

Had the firefighters not reached in time the fire would have destroyed the entire building of the campus, reducing thousands of costly kail trees to ashes, Salim added.

According to Salim, this was the first time in 11 years that a fire had erupted in Bara Gali.

Case registered

On the complaint of Abbottabad Sub-Divisional Forest Officer Mudassar Hussain, Bara Gali police station registered a criminal case against the unidentified officials of the campus.

The complaint was filed under Section 26 of Forest Ordinance, 2002. Subsection 1(d) of the legislation punishes those who set fire or abet in setting fire to a reserved forest. Cases were also registered under Section 85 of the ordinance which specifies penalties and procedures and Section 427 of Pakistan Penal Code that punishes those who cause mischief that results in damage of Rs50 or more.

On the other hand, in another fire incident in Shimla Hill, several trees and bushes were burnt on Saturday evening. City police officials said the fire erupted around 6pm from the western side of Shimla Hills, the famous picnic point overlooking Abbottabad city.

However, a team of Rescue 1122 managed to extinguish the fire after an effort of an hour, protecting majority of the area from being destructed. Police confirmed that a house was also burnt in the fire but its inhabitants remained unhurt.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2016.