K-P forests lose 74% density, claim officials

People burn wood worth Rs75 billion annually


Fawad Ali November 13, 2016
The forests of Pakistan are disappearing faster than you can say ‘matchstick.’ PHOTO: ONLINE

PESHAWAR: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s forests have lost around 74% density over the years due to incessant deforestation, officials said on Friday. As a consequence, the province has had to contend with the ill effects of climate change, leading to disastrous flooding and soaring temperatures.

Due to the unavailability of alternative sources of income, forests stand to be the sole source of livelihood for people in mountainous regions.

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According to the Research and Development (R&D) directorate, a wing at the Forest Department that checks pressure on forests, people in K-P burn wood worth Rs75 billion annually. The wood mainly comes from forests in mountainous areas.

The directorate said if environmental costs are also taken into account, the losses runs in trillions of rupees, including washing away of fertile surface land during rain and the subsequent filling of dams reducing their lifespan.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Director R&D Malik Javed Khan said: “Deforestation would continue unless people in mountainous areas are provided with alternate energy means like the provision of gas.”

A survey conducted by the R&D Directorate to check pressure on K-P’s forests shows out that grazing, cutting of trees for fuel and factors that do not allow plants to grow naturally led forests to lose their maximum density since the last one-and-a-half decade.

According to the government policy, people in mountainous areas have three kinds of rights over forests: they can cut trees for fuel to keep their homes warm during winter, for construction of houses and manufacturing of furniture.

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In addition, grazing and cutting of trees by women and children are some of the factors that stop regeneration of small plants.

“Women and children usually peel skin of trees, causing them to dry, and cutting of small trees for fuel wood has badly affected the density of forests,” he commented.

Encroachment of forest land for agricultural purposes is another factor that affected forests’ density.

Project director Billion Tree Tsunami Muhammad Shabir, while quoting a 2005 report prepared by the GIZ, said the density of 78% forests has reduced tremendously.

Around 84% damage to forests was due to cutting of trees for fuel and massive grazing, he said and added that an annual growth of 200 cubic feet of trees is required to sustain forests.

“Unfortunately, people were cutting more than planting trees due to which K-P’s forests have been losing its maximum density,” Shabir said.

It is because of these factors that some forest areas in Malakand and Hazara divisions are on verge of extinction, he added.

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Keeping in view the financial constraints in the way of providing gas or other alternate sources of energy to people, Shabir suggests that plants that grow faster than conifers should be planted.

“Conifers take decades to grow into a mature tree; therefore, the government should plant popular and eucalyptus near major forest areas to be used as fuel wood,” he said. Under the Billion Tree Tsunami project, the government has banned grazing and cutting of trees in forests with low density.

The government has adopted a two-pronged strategy: it banned grazing and cutting of trees to allow natural regeneration of plants. Second, it has focused on planting trees at such forests to cover the low density within a few years.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2016.

COMMENTS (1)

infidel | 5 years ago | Reply NO COMMENTS???? seriously? no comment on one of the most important issues right now?
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