By Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali
LAHORE, Dec 20 (APP):Nature has an imperative role for our survival and provides us with abundant oxygen, food through maintaining critical ecosystem services, livelihood to people and shelter to wildlife. But deforestation as a disease is rapidly harming these “lungs of the earth.”
Human activity has deteriorated almost 75 per cent of the earth’s surface, by squeezing wildlife to ever smallest numbers and pushing trees to an isolated corner. Forests and other green covered areas are the key factors which maintain and help regulate climate change impact, control weather patterns and recycle heavy quantities of CO2.Environmental experts believe that globally, a major increase in mean-surface-temperature was a significant consequence of rapid urbanization and industrialization, due to which deforestation was occurring at a rapid pace.
Many parts of the world including Pakistan had witnessed rapid and unchecked cutting down of forest cover over the decades, resulting in the worst disasters.
The statistics of National Environment Information System (NEIMS) working under United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reveals that the forest cover in Pakistan is likely to reduce from 3.59 million hectares to 3.32m hectares annually, at an average rate of 27,000 hectares.
The data highlights that only 4.72m hectares or 3.36 percent of the country’s total land was covered with forests, as there had been a rapid declining forestation trend since 2000. Pakistan Forests are home to around 70 to 90 species which are found and having widespread economic and eco benefits to mankind, it said.
Due to deforestation, the natural resources were decreasing at such a rapid speed that all the forest area would be consumed within the next five years, it observes.
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment data report, human developmental projects and deforestation activities globally were responsible for unsustainable calamities.
The roots of trees hold soil firmly in place and the fertile soil, of course was needed to grow crops, and it would otherwise be washed away in rainstorms, eroding the large amount of soil used for agriculture, the UN report observed.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam in his recent address during
United Nations’ (UN) Summit for Biodiversity 2020 had said that on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan would continue supporting the global leaders’ pledge for action to stem biodiversity loss to halt the destruction of nature on Earth.
Under the country’s Protected Areas Initiative (PAI), steps were being taken to improve management, environmental governance, financing and conservation activities through afforestation on about 7,200 square kilometers, across the country, Malik Amin explained.
Ministry of Climate change spokesperson, Muhammad Saleem told APP that the initiatives of incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government were being appreciated globally to arrest biodiversity, environmental and eco-degradation loss of the country.
He said that the incumbent government was evolving a comprehensive strategy and a concise plan to mitigate tree cutting which was the major reason for the environmental hazards and eco-degradation across the country.
Afforestation on huge areas would help cool the air by up to eight degree centigrade, which means it would easily reduce the use of air-conditions by more than 30 per cent, he added. To a query he informed that particularly forestry-near-cities growing would help purify air quality as urban trees were excellent air filters which remove harmful pollutants in the air.
Besides, trees reduce noise pollution, as they protect and shield homes from industrial machinery and nearby road traffic noise, he observed. Noted environmentalist and forest expert Mirza Sarwat Baig told APP that massive afforestation would hold a positive impact on the environment and the consequences of severity of climate change on biodiversity, agriculture, human health and water resources would be reduced manifold.
He said , “forest cover expansion is a need of the hour which would make cities sustainable and live-able, as it ultimately cures against climate devastation.”
Replying to a query Baig said that the green cover in Pakistan had reflected great physiographic edaphic and climatic contrasts, adding ‘we should give awareness to the masses that forests were essential for the sustainable environment and water resource management.