KRG agriculture ministry investigating Tasluja forest fires: spokesperson

In response to claims that they were deliberately set to clear land
The view of dried-up pine trees on Tasluja-Sulaimani road. Photo was screenshot on September 19,2020. (Photo Credit: NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — In response to accusations that recent forest fires around Tasluja were deliberately set to clear land for new development, Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Agriculture and Water Resources Ministry Hussein Hama Karim said on Saturday (September 19) there were no immediate plans to remove the trees on the part of the government.

He said that developers had previously applied for permits to use the land east of Sulaimani city, but they had been rejected by the ministry.

“These pines provide nice, green scenes in the area. It is not possible to cut them down to build developments in their place,” he said.

“The pines are result of ten years of effort by forest service employees,” he continued, adding that it was the ministry’s responsibility to protect the Region’s forests and engage in conservation activities.

He said that the ministry was investigating the fires to determine their cause and would take appropriate action should it be determined that they were deliberately set.

During a press conference on Saturday, the Deputy Head of the Sulaimani Municipality Presidency Ako Ali said that the place of the pines would not be turned into a project.

“No fire broke out to the pine trees in the few past days, Ali said.

He also said that the pine trees were dried up after a fire broke out inside the Peshmerga Forces Command 70 and later the blaze spread to the pine trees.

The head of Raparin Municipality Presidency also said that they assured everyone the area had not been used for any project.

On Friday, the Head of Ainda Organization to Preserve the Environment Naruf Majid expressed concern about the fires, particularly if they were intentional.

In a statement, he called instead for new tree planting campaigns and for those who care about the environment to raise their voices against deforestation in the Kurdistan Region.

(NRT Digital Media)

*This story was updated at 03:50 EBL time to include a statement from the Deputy Head of Sulaimani Municipality Presidency and  Head of Raparin Municipality Directorate