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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Mar 22, 2014

Tackling deforestation: New body to strategise forestry issues, says MNA

The government is serious about issues related to forestry
and the prime minister has formed a new body to discuss the country’s forest
strategy among other environmental concerns, according to a ruling party
parliamentarian.

Member National Assembly Marriyum Aurangzeb was speaking on
Friday at a seminar jointly organised by the Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI) and the government’s Climate Change Division (CCD) to mark the
International Day of Forests.

Discussing about inclusion of forestry in the national
development agenda, Aurangzeb said a 10-member Pakistan Environment Council
will discuss and strategise forestry issues.

She said similar committees should also be created in the
provinces and chief ministers should lead the charge in saving forests.

“Such forums can help use indigenous knowledge to solve
issues of food security, disaster risk management and combating climate
change,” Aurangzeb, who recently also represented Pakistan at the second Global
Climate Summit in the US, said.

She also emphasized the need for a stronger advocacy
campaign to curb deforestation highlighting youth participation in such drives.

Pakistan’s forests have long been a contentious and
neglected issue, but their governance was considerably weakened after the 18th
Amendment when provincial control of forests was reaffirmed. International
commitments on forests are done at the state level and deforestation in one
province or the other amount to national loss, according to environmentalists.

But the country recently won a $3.8 million readiness grant
from the World Bank to participate in the United Nations Reducing Emissions
from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus programme, which puts a cash
incentive for countries to protect their forests.

Trees can store carbon from carbon-dioxide, the greenhouse
gas which contributes toward global warming. However, countries such as
Pakistan have to first quantify the amount of carbon that can be stored in
their forests. So, the readiness grant itself demands a more active role by
government and official institutions to identify and monitor Pakistan’s
forests.

Patrick Evans, the Pakistan Representative for the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, said the day is dedicated
to raising awareness about the importance of forests towards economic, social
and environmental security.

But the world’s forest resources are facing major
challenges, Evans said.

The situation in Pakistan is no better, where as experts
noted, there is confusion over the actual area of forest reserves.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri said a comprehensive
definition of what falls within the category of forests is the need of the
hour.

CCD Inspector General Forests Nasir Mahmood said a
transparent procedure for monitoring forests is equally important in the current
Pakistani forest landscape.

Mahmood also touched upon the Thar crisis where, he said,
local sustenance systems had collapsed in an unprecedented manner. Planting
Guggal, Prosopis or Aloe Vera can be beneficial for such areas as they have
extreme drought resistance quality, he said.

Abdul Sattar, an official from the Sindh Forest Department,
said attention should be given to protect blocks of rangelands in Tharparkar
and Kohistan areas by fencing them.

Sattar said the fenced area could be managed under a
rotational grazing system and fodder from these rangelands can provide backup
for areas hit by a drought-like situations. Speakers stressed effective
implementation of environmental policies and also devoted considerable time in
discussing the benefits of awareness-raising.

Deforestation can be controlled by creating social
awareness, said Hamdard University Dean Dr Kamran Khan. But political
commitments and research are also important, Khan said.

Suleri said SDPI can support an advocacy campaign that focuses
on policy and research needs regarding forestry.