Deforestation: a key ecological issue

Published: April 18, 2014

SHANGHAI: Deforestation is a main ecological concern around the globe, which includes the cutting down, burning, and destruction of forests. According to research, deforestation may be the first connection in a chain of environment degradation that includes land erosion, climatic changes, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, decline in watershed functions and the visible loss of aesthetic stocks. According to the Government of Pakistan, forests occupy about 4.6 million hectares (Mha) of the country’s land area. This includes 1.96 Mha of coniferous forests (43 per cent of the total forest cover), 1.72 Mha shrubs or foothill forests (37.2 per cent), irrigated plantations (0.234 Mha), riverine (0.297 Mha) and mangroves (0.35 Mha) in the Indus river delta. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has 40 per cent of the country’s forest cover, the Northern Areas 15.7 per cent and Azad Jammu & Kashmir 6.5 per cent.

One of the primary reasons for deforestation is a burgeoning and very competitive world economy, which forces countries with limited resources to accelerate the use of these resources. Although the forest resources of Pakistan are meager when compared to other countries, they do contribute significantly to its economy. People rely on forests for fodder, timber and wood for fuel. The latter in fact is the most significant source of fuel energy for cooking and heating in most Pakistani rural households. In addition, people living around the forests collect diverse non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for use at the household level and for cash income.

Farmers have to practice intensive methods of cultivation, and bring marginal land under cultivation through encroachment of forests and of steep slopes. Therefore, in Pakistan, deforestation is a very serious ecological issue. According to an estimate, 39,000 hectares of forests are lost every year. According to UN figures, the deforestation rate in Pakistan was 1.5 per cent annually between 1990-2000.

Removal of tracts of forest to grow crops by people , increase of urbanisation, road construction, dependence of rural population on wood for fuel, overgrazing of land by cattle and the activities of the timber mafia are some causes of forests depleting in Pakistan. Therefore, governments as well as environmentalists have some major challenges to fight and overcome.

Environmentalists have been trying to create awareness among the general public and lobbying the government to immediately act on the issue and curb rising deforestation.

Deforestation could be stopped if people were more environmentally mindful. One way of doing this could be the establishment of more forestry institutions in different regions of Pakistan so that education and research on the issue can be disseminated on a wider level. Steps should be taken to encourage forestry education and make it part of the mainstream curriculum and syllabus in the country. We also need to see projects using an integrated forestry approach, and include issues related to social forestry and watershed management. Equally importantly, the government should also implement existing legislation to effectively stop deforestation. Not only that, it must also act to encourage reforestation.

People harvest forests to meet their own domestic needs and in most cases they do so without caring about the effects this has on the future. An example of this is the devastation caused by the 2010 flood, which was in large part because of rapid deforestation taking place along the banks of our rivers as well as the mountains.

While reforestation can help, it usually does not revert a forest that was once a primary forest back to its initial state, and the result is usually that it exists at a reduced secondary level.

Arshad Ali (Gold Medalist)

Department of Environmental Science

East China Normal University,

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Apr 18, 2014 - 11:35PM

    Deforestation i sthe major root cause of evilness on the earth destroying earth beauty for few bucks is criminal act.There should be strong effort to save forest around the world.The world was much more greener just 100 years back then what it is now and just one can imagine what will happen after 100 year to the same rate they are cutting and destroying the lungs of the earth.Recommend

  • pakistani1414918
    Apr 19, 2014 - 10:47AM

    What do you expect with an uncontrolled increasing human population crisis?


  • Erin C
    Apr 19, 2014 - 3:17PM

    I like your views and ideas which have been mentioned in this paper and hope to see your more articles in the future.Recommend

  • A. Khan
    Apr 19, 2014 - 4:18PM

    While travelling to Murree, it is always painful to see all the barren mountains. Overpopulation and bad planning leads to deforestation but inaction makes it permanent.


  • Abid Ullah
    Apr 19, 2014 - 6:13PM

    I have completed my Thesis on such a devastating matter. People in Pakistan especially in Northern areas of Pakistan don’t follow the rules and regulations of Forest act of Pakistan, while Govt; have no idea to over come their needs of fuel and timber needs. That’s why we are short of forest cover and depend mainly on the scarce remaining forest. We ourselves and Govt’ must take positive steps towards implementation and protection of Forests and Wild life. In other case, we will soon lose our plant and animals diversity, which is dangerous.


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