22 Oct 2018

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Deforestation in Pakistan

Fatima Ilyas

Pakistan has highest annual deforestation rate in Asia. Forests currently cover only 2.5 per cent of the country’s land, according to the latest findings of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The report says that more than 61,000 hectares (approx. over 151,500 acres) of forest land have been converted to non-forest use in the country since its inception. Experts have warned that Pakistan will run out of forests within the next 50 years if deforestation continues at the current rate.

The WWF report says that over 99,711 acres of forest land in Punjab and 27,874-acre forests in Sindh have been converted to non-forest uses. In this regard, it says, the beneficiaries remain some government departments, politicians and other influential people having close contact with respective governments.

When Pakistan gained its independence in the late 1940s, 33 percent of the country was covered in forests. But according to figures released by the Ministry of Climate Change in 2015, only 5 percent of the country now has tree cover. Some nongovernmental reports suggest current forest cover is actually lower at 3 percent.

Domestic energy needs combined with poverty serves as a powerful motivation and factor to cut the forests to satisfy local needs Pakistanis have resorted to clearing their forests to cook their food.

In Pakistan, another cause for deforestation is timber mafia. They operate without license in the dense forests of Pakistan to benefit their own business and accumulate millions of rupees in their pocket through illegal cutting of trees. According to news reports, it is shadowy network of politically well-connected individuals and firms that chop the trees bribe forest department officials and locals to look other way while they transport wood in the darkness of night.

The urgent measures recommended to the relevant authorities to curb the negative trend are immediate placement of a ban on forest land conversions, commercial harvesting and allotments; spread of awareness among lawmakers for proper legislation to restrict land conversions; and recovery of forest land from encroachers and its subsequent reforestation. after years of deforestation, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of Pakistan’s four provinces, is focused on large-scale afforestation.

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