The green emergency: deforestation in Pakistan

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Last winter, my family and I decided to visit Nathia Gali, a picturesque town nestled amongst the lush green mountains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. As we drove towards our destination, we came across several women collecting firewood by the roadside. Speaking with one of the young ladies, she told me that the women of the family collect this firewood for daily use .

What is striking is the extent of families’ dependency in a relatively advanced region, still having to rely on basic methods of energy generation. Approximately 68% of Pakistan’s population depends on firewood as the main source of energy in households .

With almost three-quarters of the population using Pakistan’s forest resources daily, the impact is dire.

Every year, Pakistan loses almost 27,000 hectares of natural forest area

Based on this, Pakistan is in a state of ‘Green Emergency’.

This state of emergency has negatively impacted the rural population that relies on Pakistan’s forests for their livelihoods.

Along with changes in the ecosystem, this dependency has made them extremely vulnerable to the further degradation of forests – a large number of households and workers in this region could lose their vocation, skillset and habitat.

With a declining supply of raw materials from Pakistan’s own forest ecosystems, forest-based industries and their employees are at risk from the Green Emergency.

Industries such as tourism and agriculture have also been affected. Though these sectors are not directly impacted by deforestation, their operations in part rely on the benefits of Pakistan’s forestry.

Although afforestation sounds like the obvious solution, there are several areas that need immediate attention

First, regulations for Pakistan’s natural resources must be reformed to support sustainable management. Existing regulations have so far hindered governmental sectors tasked with forest and parkland management.

The first step is to construct a policy framework that is conducive to forest investments and sustainable forest management practices .

Secondly, for a solid basis for scientific management of forest resources, monitoring and reporting must be upgraded and expanded with technical infrastructure. With a more comprehensive, efficient data system, the federal and provincial levels can work together to support the effective development and implementation of forest policies.

Lastly, while the government’s afforestation initiatives have made important progress, public sector agencies more widely must improve the accountability and transparency of their operations.

Such efforts will encourage domestic and international partners and restore their confidence in the forest sector. Investment in the forest sector is critical to restore and manage Pakistan’s forest ecosystem.

Public and private investment are key to efforts to revert the deforestation trend and forest degradation before it becomes irreparable .

Looking ahead, I hope that my country can transform the Green Emergency into a Green Revolution. I hope to return to a greener Nathia Gali and hope to see those families able to use clean energy instead of firewood .

For more information, see the Pakistan Forest Note: Forests for Green Pakistan report here.

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Authors

Rahat Jabeen

Environmental Specialist

Join the Conversation

Mohammad Kashif
August 23, 2020

Very informative and suggestive article. Just hope one day we get a Govt sincere enough to act upon such suggestions.

Abdul Khaliq
October 28, 2021

I appreciate your observations and research.but I would like to add that firewood collected by these women is in practice from centuries and these are the only dry and useless branches of the tall trees which we called anander, cheel or dewdar..infact deforestration and green emergency of these forest are created by timber smuglers with the joint coordination of dishonest forest officers hired in bribery..this not the case only for Nathiagali, if you visit more to the Northern area ,Kashmir , or gilgit sakardu, even in abottabad everywhere you will find these networks who are cutting and smugling these priceless wood to the other areas of the country even to abroad.

Zafar Bilal
August 23, 2020

This is very alarming that we being deprived off, by this treasure and we are are just seeing its shrinkage in a state of helplessness. We are regularly forming and constituting national forest policy for the last decade or so, but without having any tangible result. I have personally come across some very shocking observations regarding deforestation in our country everywhere and with all might and full force. This blind cutting of trees have literally sent some very rare tress into extinction and we have not been to see any of those rare plants and trees over the past 30 years. I am afraid trees like jand and tahli will be confined to books and tales only if this sad state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Arshad Hussain
October 28, 2021

The well written contents, It is suggested that, World bank, should revisit its project implementation framework. In every project of infratructure allocate 1% of project budget to Compensatory Tree plantation and start Tree plantation on the day of Project Ground Breaking, every projects goes for at least three years by the end of project life, every project of Bank will contribute significant positive role towards Green Revolution.

Engr Ishrat Farooqi
October 28, 2021

Only Plantation of trees for green Pakistan is NOT a right, positive n constructive approach.
We must grow multi beneficial Plantation like Jetropha, Stevia etc, The Jetropha plantation will Not only make Pakistan Green but also give huge 80% less polluted Bio Diesel (without any Refinary) for trasport n power generation.
The Stevia Plantation, will reduce dependency on growing Sugar can n will give 15% more Sweetner than Sugar n most suitable to control Diabetes (now involving comman human).
Kindly think over it n move forward with positive n constructive thoughts, for better environment n healthy livings.
Workable n effective solutions are available.
Regards
Engr Ishrat Farooqi - The Technologist.
Karachi Pakistan
+92333 2386485

Zeeshan
August 23, 2020

Well we got much of info frm your website for my thesis writing thanks alot for publish the data