ISLAMABAD: Environmental and forest experts have expressed concern at the rapid deforestation which is losing 27,000 hectares per year across the country.
According to official data, the country has a total forest cover of
4.4 million hectares, and the current rate of deforestation is 27,000
hectares per year.
Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi Department of Forestry
Chairman Dr Mirza Sarwat Naz Beg said timber mafias, clearing of land
for development projects, burning of wood are the main reasons for
deforestation across the country.
The main drivers are the country’s growing population and the
associated demand for wood, as well as weak governance and land
encroachments, Beg added.
A Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) researcher Dr
Kashif Salik said according to Unesco’s International Coordinating
Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme, Pakistan’s juniper
forest is believed to be the world’s second largest such reserve.
Salik said it is illegal to cut down juniper, whether the land is
publicly or privately owned. However, he said that comprehensive data or
estimation of the amount of juniper forest being cleared each year was
not available. “The problems facing forests are ecological and
environmental as well as economic,” he said.
Pakistan Agricultural Research Council scientist Fakhar Abbas said
juniper trees are being infected with fungus and bacteria due to
inbreeding. “The trees are located in an isolated place and fast losing
their genetic diversity,” he said.
It is important to strengthen the trees’ immunity to protect them
from diseases and the negative effects of climate change, he added. “We
are working on a plan to exchange some trees with Central Asian states
to ensure cross-breeding in the forests,” he said.
Khudai Rahim Ejbani, a forest department official, said the
government is concerned at the deforestation and is trying the reverse
the trend. “If people did not fear the government, they would have
denuded the whole forest land in six months,” he said.
Ejbani, however, acknowledged that some forest officials are also
involved in cutting down trees. “We have underlined a policy to suspend
forest officials who are found involved in dereliction of duty or
receiving kickbacks,” he said.
The government plans to strengthen forestry laws, Ejbani added. In
Pakistan, he said, forests can be saved only if the government provides
jobs for local people residing in the forested areas. “The trees may be
an asset for the government and international organisations, but for the
locals they are (just) a source of livelihood,” he said.
Source : http://tribune.com.pk/story/765376/deforestation-thousands-of-hectares-denuded-every-year/
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.