Pakistan needs to raise forest from 5% to 25%: New research

KARACHI: Pakistan needs to raise its forest cover from 5% to 25% to meet its economic, employment and green environment needs because of the fact that forest is the source of economic support, employment, oxygen generation, livestock grazing, furniture products, boats, household oven fire, hotel fuel in cities & town, sports goods, and construction industry, according to a new research conducted by Preston Institute of Management Science and Technology (PIMSAT) Karachi’s MBA final year students Syeda Bushra Hasan, Mehwish Saqib, and Dinsha Vania, which was released to PPI on Sunday.

Briefing on the research, Bushra said that trees play vital role in economic support and green environment; hence, there is need to conduct mass tree plantation in villages, towns, cities. “There is also need to make tree plantation at new avenues like along roads, highways, streets, in houses and gardens. Environment has become big sector of life; therefore, it needs more attention and funds from government. Trees also absorb oxygen and provide clean oxygen for survival of human beings and animals, she noted in the research.

Mehwish Saqib said that the government needs to make mass tree plantation in Karachi like Lahore, while all towns and other cities also require mass tree plantation for reducing air pollution and providing clean air to citizens for their good health. “Those people who have space in their houses should plant at least one or two trees of fruits like mango and guava. This will also provide them fruit,” she said. According to Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan’s current forest area is 5% of its total land area, which is low in the world, so it should be raised to a significant level, Mehwish said.

Dinsha Vania told PPI that Pakistan needs mass tree plantation at plain, hilly and other empty areas with the support of private organizations and government. Funds should be sought from corporate sector because government funds are not enough, he advised in the research report.

According to the research, massive forest hacking is being continued in the country. Estimated 500,000 workers are employed in forestry, and its related business like logging, carpentry, and timber products manufacturing, and tourism. The forests contribute only 0.3% to GNP due to low area. Forest products are exported abroad. Forest is also source of tourism. Massive corruption has plagued this vital sector.

As per international environmental standards, Pakistan needs 25% forest area for economic stability and environment protection. Forest is the source of economic support, employment, oxygen generation, livestock grazing, furniture products, boats, household oven fire, hotel fuel in cities & town, sports goods, and construction industry. A healthy tree with length of five meters creates oxygen for four people daily.

Mangrove forests along coastal areas stop cyclones or divert them. 50% oxygen in the atmosphere is created by forests and trees, while other 50% is generated by oceans, according to NASA report. The annual forest budget of each province should be doubled for reforestation, tree plantation and their safety. Federal government funds should also be provided to each province for this cause. Funds from IUCN, WWF, World Bank, ADB, USAID and other agencies should be sought.

An action plan comprising suggestions of all stakeholders should prepared. Seminars and conferences should be arranged for raising awareness about importance of forests and trees. Tube-wells should be installed for supply of water to forests. Separate forest police backed by rangers should be introduced at tehsil level. District task force comprising three judges, two NAB officials and 20 local community people should also be formed with high salary package, health cover, insurance, and security.

The government in collaboration with NGOs and local communities should execute joint work for reforestation and tree plantation. New forests should be planted at barren and hilly areas with water supply arrangements through tube-wells and other available sources like canals. Mangrove forest should be raised along coastal belt of the country. Mass tree plantation should be initiated in all villages, towns, and cities. Tree plantation should also be raised along roads, canals, lakes, rivers and in gardens. Mango, guava and kino orchards should be planted at feasible places across the country with government subsidies.

Hacking of forest should be halted permanently with the help of tehsil police, district task force, and rangers. Efforts should also be made to recover all encroached forest lands, while reforestation on them be made if required. All forests and planted trees should be protected regularly. Agriculture inputs like water and cattle manure should be given to trees for their healthy growth. The number of planted trees should be recorded and documented, and if trees are lost during growth period, the same number of trees should be re-planted. Lessons should be learnt from whole process of reforestation and tree plantation.