KARACHI – Pakistan People’s Party MPA Sharmila Farooqui said on Sunday that systematic deforestation in Pakistan over the past three decades had led to mass migration and increased poverty, which needed to be addressed. “The federal government needs to plant large numbers of trees in all provinces to protect humans and wildlife because half the oxygen in the world is created by trees while the other half is produced by the oceans,” he said in a statement.
Sharmila said Pakistan had only 5.7 percent land under forest cover compared to the global standard of 25 percent land cover required for any country. The country’s deforestation rate is the second highest in Asia after Afghanistan.
He said that three decades ago, 70 percent of our livelihood came from forests which were used to provide us with firewood, vegetables and animal feed, which ultimately gave us milk, curds and cooking oil. He said that the forest cover in Sindh had also been reduced to an alarming rate of less than 2 percent, forcing an estimated one million people to migrate to other areas of Sindh province in the last 30 years.
“The coastal mangrove ecosystem in Pakistan has also been severely damaged over the past 50 years as a result of the diversion of fresh water for agricultural and industrial purposes. Pakistan’s forest cover has decreased due to land grabbing, illegal timber trade and logging by local people. As a result, 80 percent of the wood for furniture and other necessities is imported from abroad, ”said Sharmila.
Environmental degradation, of which deforestation is a major contributor, causes an annual loss of about Rs 700 billion ($ 6.64 billion) to Pakistan, he said, referring to a report.
Deforestation also adds to the already severe poverty in forest communities in recent decades. About 70 percent of Sindh’s land is currently dry, and if deforestation continues at this rate, there will be even more poverty increases in the katcha area.
He said massive deforestation in Sindh was also contributing to climate change in Pakistan. The temperature in Sindh province, particularly in Karachi, has increased significantly due to deforestation in the last three decades.
He said that temperatures in Karachi over the past five years had increased by 5 degrees Celsius and deforestation was one of the contributors. As a result of deforestation, the climate is changing rapidly and becoming warmer and drying out the country.
“To restore forest cover, the Federal government must plant more trees. The solution to deforestation is to enforce the law, ensure strict punishment for the accused and start more tree planting like the Green Pakistan Program, ”said Sharmila.