Climate Change: (Measures for forest and wildlife conservation and protection reviewed)

ISLAMABAD: Federal Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan has pledged to jointly work with provincial forest and wildlife departments and other relevant stakeholders to increase forest cover in the country as a part of the climate change policy measures aimed at tackling aggravating climate change impacts in the country.

“Increasing area under forest covert is one effective way to reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change-induced catastrophes, particularly floods, soil erosion and landslides from heavy rains, droughts, desertification, storm surges and sea intrusion or sea-level rise,” he said while chairing a high-level meeting of top key officials of the provincial forest and wildlife departments here in the climate change ministry, says a press statement issued here on Sunday.

Senior officials from forest and wildlife departments of Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and forest wing of the climate change ministry also attended the meeting. The meeting took stock of the current state of the forests and wildlife, particularly the endangered species, risks to their sustainability and possible remedial measures for their protection and conservation.

The senior provincial forest officials briefed the meeting about programmes planned or launched for re-invigorating country’s ailing forestry sector and protection and conservation of the wildlife species.

Inspector General of Forests at the ministry, Syed Mahmood Nasir, also briefed the meeting on the measures to be taken for the reclamation and development of forest areas across the country in the light of instructions of the Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif.

Meanwhile Arif Ahmed Khan emphasized that the country direly needed substantial forest cover to mitigate its ever-worsening climate-vulnerability to protect the people and their livelihoods from unfolding climate change risks in shape of more frequent incidents of floods, heavy rains, droughts, landslides, sea intrusion, storm surges and cyclones. He said, ” Inter-provincial cooperation and coordination are inevitable for protecting the existing forests and bringing new area under trees as well as protecting the wildlife and controlling its illegal hunting or poaching.”

He cautioned that no single government department or ministry could be able to expand area under forests in the country. All the provincial governments and non-governmental stakeholders would have to join hands and pool the resources together to achieve the goal of protecting existing forests and brining new area under trees.

The secretary climate change says that adoption of partnerships and participatory approaches for sustainable forest management (SFM) in the country are inevitable, which recognise the unprecedented significance of involving all forest stakeholders in the management of forest resources.

“Partnerships and participatory approaches can operate at a range of levels, from national to local, and include state and local authorities, forest extension agencies, forest-dependent communities, non-governmental organisations, private-sector entities, research and academic bodies, and forest managers. Partnerships and participatory approaches are viewed as essential for successful and durable management responses to climate change impacts,” he argued.

“Climate change also poses enormous challenges for forests, people and their livelihoods. But climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies for coping with the challenges are two vital responses to the climate change risks that need to be hammered out on war-footing grounds,” the secretary Arif Ahmed Khan stressed.

In the forest sector, mitigation strategies could comprise reducing emissions from deforestation; reducing emissions from forest degradation; and increasing the role of forests as carbon sinks. On the other hand, adaptation strategies could comprises interventions to decrease the vulnerability of forests and forest-dependent communities to climate change impacts, he elaborated.

The climate change secretary suggested, “Deploying sustainable forest management (SFM) techniques can lessen the climate risks and generate opportunities, such as employment in forest restoration, forest conservation, wood production and wood-based manufacturing and payments for forest-related services.”

Encouraging SFM and optimizing its role in climate change mitigation and adaptation would often require provinces to bring changes in their respective forest policies, strategies and practices, he said and warned delay in making such changes would only spike their cost and difficulty and reduce the opportunities they might create.

He said, “Forest stakeholders – comprise all people who rely on or benefit from forests and those who decide on, control or regulate access to forests – must recognise that trees also play critical roles in land-use systems other than forests, such as agriculture and the urban environment. Integrated forest landscape management is a key approach in climate change adaptation and mitigation and can help ensure that adequate attention is paid to trees outside forests.”

The secretary underlined need for awareness-raising among masses about myriad benefits of the forests when let stand and grow tall, importance of strengthening technical capacity of all the forest stakeholders and creating enabling policy environments for greening the country with trillions of trees in the years to come as a part of climate-resilient Pakistan.

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