Country losing over 40,000 acres of forest land annually
THATTA: Pakistan is losing 41,100 hectares of forest annually which is one of the major factors contributing to environmental degradation costing the national economy a loss of about Rs1 billion per day, according to speakers at a programme held in Baghan town near Keti Bunder on Friday to mark the World Forest Day.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) had organised the event under its Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP) project. It was attended by several hundred local community people, NGOs representatives, academia, students and media persons.
Speaking to the audience, Ali Murtaza Dharejo, an environmentalist and author, said that 1.6 billion people were directly dependent on forests for livelihood. The largest storehouse of carbon —forests — he said, helped decrease air and sound pollution to a great extent.
“The forest cover is declining at a rate of 3.1 per cent annually worldwide. Forest land covers one-third of our planet and is home to about 80 per cent of total living species found in the world,” he said.
Highlighting other benefits of forests, he said that they were an important source of fuel and wood.
“For instance, one hectare of mangroves produces 100kg fish, 25kg shrimps, 15kg crab meat and 40kg sea cucumber annually. On an average, a single tree is home to about 100 organisms and an acre of forest absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide which is emitted by a vehicle covering 41,842km distance,” he explained.
The major threats to forests in Pakistan include illegal occupation, unavailability of river water, reduced rainfall and drastic climate change impacts. He warned that if new dams and barrages were constructed it would further exacerbate the situation.
Reduced forest cover was contributing to environmental degradation currently costing Pakistan Rs1bn daily, he said.
Mohammad Tahir Abbasi, Site Coordinator CCAP, WWF-Pakistan, said that the fast diminishing forests were a primary source of livelihood for thousands of local communities.
“Pakistan’s total forest cover is about 1,902,000 hectares but, unfortunately, due to rapid deforestation, we are losing 41,100 hectares annually,” he said.
Of the WWF’s initiatives, he informed the audience that mangroves had been planted over 10,000 hectares in Keti Bunder. The project aimed at promoting renewable energy to reduce pressure on vanishing forests in the area.
Community Development Officer CCAP WWF-Pakistan Rukhsana Memon observed that local communities were engaged in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts through rehabilitation and plantation of mangroves. She said that mangroves provided not only sustainable livelihood but played a vital role in safeguarding coastal communities from cyclones and other natural hazards.
In the end, students from The Citizen Foundation (TCF) and government schools of Baghan, Kharo Chann and Keti Bunder presented tableaus and participated in a painting and speech competition based on forest conservation.
Khairpur: An awareness walk was organised by the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Shah Abdul Latif University (Salu) in collaboration with the provincial forest department on Friday to observe the International Day of Forest.
Salu Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Parveen Shah speaking to the participants highlighted importance of forests and stressed the need for planting trees to ensure a healthy environment on the planet.
She said that a proposal on the establishment of a forestry school at Salu had already been submitted with the Sindh government and would hopefully be approved soon.
Director of the centre Prof Dr Ghulam Raza Bhatti read out the message of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the occasion stating that “the international day of forest is dedicated to raising awareness about importance of all types of forests and trees to our economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing, not only do forest provide essential economic safety nets for a significant number of the world poor, they underpin economics at all levels, round wood processing and the pulp and papers industries.”.
Prof Shah, Prof Bhatti and Dr Razzaque Mahar planted saplings on the Salu premises.