CHITRAL (Staff Report): Chitral town is reeling from the aftermath of severe floods that have wreaked havoc on its fabled past, especially near the Shahi Qilla (fort), where centuries-old Chinar trees, iconic symbols of the region’s heritage, have been swept away. The disaster was triggered by the bursting of the Chitral river embankments due to illegal encroachments near the river bed. Government authorities had failed to vet and regulate the construction of mosques, motor vehicle workshops, car washes, bus stands, shops, residences, and hotels in this ecologically sensitive area.

Videos circulating on social media have exposed the lack of authority of government departments, highlighting how illegal encroachments on the Denin side of Chitral town have altered the river’s course and diverted its waters toward the opposite riverbank.

The absence of strong enforcement of laws by the TMA (Tehsil Municipal Administration) and District Administration Authorities, Archaeological Department, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed real estate mafias to exploit the situation and evade proper scrutiny. Environmental experts emphasize that all constructions must adhere to KP Building Bye Laws, and those without necessary NOCs (No Objection Certificates) should be demolished in accordance with regulations. EPA should take decisive action against illegal constructions in the ecologically fragile mountain areas near the riverbed in the main Chitral Town.

A local environmental expert voiced concerns over the audacity of illegal property businesses and building owners who may demand compensation, further compounding the damage caused. The call is for demolishing illegal constructions and encroachments in the river beds while imposing penalties on those who flout the law.

The Forest and Environment Departments, the EPA, and TMAs and District Administrations have come under scrutiny for their lack of oversight and failure to enforce environmental regulations, enabling unregulated development and exacerbating the situation.

The public is demanding stringent measures and punitive action against property developers responsible for putting the entire Chitral City, including historic sites like the shahi qilla, shahi mosque, and iconic chinar trees, under threat. Swift action and accountability are essential to protect the region’s cultural heritage and natural resources from further harm.

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