ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Security forces from the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani have arrested 65 people since the start of 2018 for cutting down trees in the province’s rural areas.
The statement comes as the winter months approach and temperatures continue to fall. During these times, residents of the Kurdistan Region’s countryside are cutting down trees from the temperate forests to heat their homes due to supply shortages of kerosene.
“Logging dead trees or branches under the supervision or in accordance with the regulations of Forest Police [nature guards] is permissible,” Hemin Kamar-Khan, spokesperson of Sulaimani Forest Police, told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.
Otherwise, he warned, if one cuts down living, and especially older, trees, then we will arrest them and have them face the law.
The government usually hands out heating oil at lower prices to citizens in preparation for the cold. But in recent years, the region has been unable to provide the good in time or the amount necessary for some who live in the areas with more extreme temperatures.
Environmental activists have expressed their worries over the trend of cutting down trees, with a member of an NGO stating on Sunday that action needs to be taken at the governmental and the social levels to ensure an end to the activity.
“The regional government should provide heating devices to the citizens in the villages and remote settlements to ensure that they do not resort to cutting down trees,” Salih Rahman, a member of the Earth Network environmentalist group, told Kurdistan 24.
Cutting down trees and possible deforestation would lead to a loss of natural habitation used by a myriad of species, which could lead to their extinction. It would also contribute to climate change.
The Kurdistan Region established the new police force and put into effect regulations and laws on environmental protection between 2008 and 2010, hoping to preserve the region’s nature and wildlife.
However, the Forest Police’s resources and staff were severely depleted following the Region’s fight against the Islamic State as their funding was lowered and their teams were mobilized to defend specific areas in the war.
The move weakened the protection of the region’s forests and wildlife. As it recovers from its economic hardships, the Kurdistan Region is reallocating resources to reinforce the area’s security.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent in Sulaimani Hazha Ghafour)