'Forest cover rises by 6%'

Figures remain unverified owing to lack of authentic data

Shabbir Hussain March 10, 2019
A Reuters file photo of the Bialowieza forest in Europe.

ISLAMABAD: The implementation of the ‘Green Pakistan’ programme including the billon tree tsunami is in progress in full swing to increase the number of trees. However, there is no authentic data available about the increase in forest areas in the country.

The previous government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had started a survey under the Red Plus programme in 2017 to prepare reliable data on the number of jungles. The programme was implemented with the cooperation of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a Finnish company, and all the provincial governments.

Sources said a recent survey shows a six per cent increase in forest areas across the country. However, the statistics have not been approved as the facts and figures remain unverified. Sources said the facts and figures of the survey have been sent to provinces for review and will be made public after final approval.

Sources said the recent survey shows the rate of forests is 5.7 per cent of the total land of the country while surveys done in 2004 and 2011 had shown the same as 5.1 per cent. However, surveys done during the former governments are not accepted at international levels. On the other hand, according to a report of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation a total of 1,617,000 hectares of land is covered by forests which are 2.2 per cent of the total land.

On the contrary, according to the situation of jungles in 2011 as mentioned in the Atlas of Pakistan compiled by Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar, a total of 507 hectares of land is covered by forests which amount to 5.1 per cent.

According to this survey, most of the forest area is in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and it is 435,138 hectares which are 36.9 per cent of the total land of AJK. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) 1,508,604 hectares of land is covered by forests which are 20.3 per cent of the total land of the province.

In Islamabad, forests cover around 20,343 hectares of land which is 22.6 per cent of the total land. Similarly, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) 534,579 hectares of land is covered by forests, forming 19.5 per cent of the total land.

According to a World Bank report, Pakistan stands at 113 among 143 countries for the lowest rate of forests.

On the other hand, a WWF report says Pakistan has lost 43,000 hectares of land every year from 2000 to 2010. This is half the size of the total land of Islamabad and is the highest rate of deforestation in Asia.