Deforestation is causing rural to urban migration and warming in Sindh as the provincial and federal governments could still not ensure the plantation of required trees, according to a PPI investigative report released on Sunday.
According to the report, the forest cover in Sindh has declined to 1.9 per cent since last four decades due to massive cutting of trees for firewood, timber sale, and furniture, resulting in migration of estimated one million people from katcha areas to urban areas besides causing rise in highest maximum temperatures by two to three degrees centigrade in cities and towns of Sindh including Karachi, Larkana, Dadu and Nawabshah.
Sindh's riverine forests had declined to 0.05 million hectares (0.35%), irrigated forests to 0.08 million hectares (0.14%), and mangrove forests to 0.2 million hectares (1.41%). Collectively, the overall forest cover has declined to 1.9% in the province. According to environments standards, any country or state in the world should have at least 25% of forest cover out of its total land area for better environment.
The survey says Sindh has a total area of 14.091 million hectares, out of which 1.9% land is covered with forests which is too low.
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An environment expert, Jan Mohammad, a resident of katcha area in Gambat taluka, told PPI that deforestation occurs when forests are hacked for creating agriculture and commercial land.
Forestland in Sindh has been leased out to influential people who have converted it into agriculture land, as a result, people are facing problem in earning livelihood for their children, he added. According to Jan: "The forests were the main source for feeding cattle and other animals in riverine areas of Sindh and ensuring 90 per cent economy of the people, but now they had almost ended in Khairpur and Larkana districts."
As a result, people are migrating to urban areas. He said that estimated 100,000 people have migrated from katcha areas of Khairpur and Larkana districts to urban areas, including towns and cities. Sindh is forest deficient province of the country, mainly due to arid and semi-arid climate, he added.
A new federal finance ministry report said, rapidly growing population coupled with poverty and lack of awareness is leading to illegal and unsustainable logging and over-harvesting of wood for fuel and charcoal continue to cause deforestation. Moreover, forest fires, natural hazards along with pests and diseases further contribute to the declining rate.
All these issues threaten the survival of species, people's livelihoods and undermines the vital services that forests provide.
To meet the domestic needs and to maintain the existing forest stand together with meeting need of improving the forest cover, the finance ministry report added.
According to Sindh Forest Department data, the forestry resources of Sindh are classified in four different categories viz. Riverine Forests, Irrigated Plantations, Protected Forests and Mangrove Forests.
The riverine forests of Sindh are confined to riverine tract of Indus within the protective embankments on both sides of the river.
They are stretched from Northeast of the province to South near Arabian Sea where Indus falls in the sea. Irrigated Plantations are the main features of manmade plantations raised on canal irrigation system of river Indus.
These plantations were raised mainly to meet the ever increasing demand of wood and wood products in the country in general and the province in particular.
The grazing fields and unclassified wastelands of the province were declared as Protected Forests where the rights of the people are allowed more than that of reserved forests.
The Indus delta mangroves, also categorized as protected forests, have great environmental value as they protect the coastal population from sea intrusion and serve as shield against cyclones which hit the coasts of Sindh occasionally.