FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 01

-Deforestation has aggravated climate change

Of the many climate-related challenges, an alarming rise in deforestation is one of the gravest issues faced by the country today. Pakistan loses 27,000 hectares of natural forest area annually.

Deforestation has increased rapidly in Pakistan in the last two decades, almost doubling. In 1990, four percent of the land area of Pakistan was covered with forests, and in 2010 only 2.2 percent of the land was found to be covered with forests. According to some recent studies, Pakistan has the highest rate of deforestation in Asia. It is human actions that lead to the depletion of forests.

The first main cause of deforestation is mindless industrialisation. The industries need to fulfil the increasing demands of consumers for various kinds of goods. Industries require fuel to run their heavy machinery and for this purpose, wood is the easily available option. The second cause of deforestation is urbanization. Due to the sprawling growth of population, forest lands are cleared to be included in the cities, thus decreasing the forest area. Thirty-two percent of the population of Pakistan lives in urban areas and if the current growth rate of urbanisation continues, Pakistan’s urban population will surpass its rural population by 2030.

Other causes are clearing of land and logging. Forests are cut down for the construction of dams and barrages to supply water. In addition to this, trees are being cut down to provide wood for timber, furniture building materials, charcoal and other wood-based products. There is a wide gap between the production and consumption of wood. In 2017, the projected consumption of wood was estimated to be 52.6 million cubic meters. We are depleting our forests at a much faster rate than we are producing them.

Road construction also results in deforestation. Existing forests are cut to build roads to inaccessible areas such as Kohistan and other northern areas of Pakistan. Further, lack of knowledge regarding farming is destroying the land as only some parts of forests are suitable for agriculture. But unaware of cultivation needs and techniques, farmers continue to move farther into the rainforest in search of new land.

These are some of the causes of deforestation which lead to destructive impacts on the environment and society as a whole.

Deforestation is causing increasing loss of biodiversity. Seventy percent of the world’s animals and plants have their habitat in forests which are being destroyed on a daily basis. Forests play a very crucial role in warding off the adverse effect of climate change. Forests act as carbon sinks by soaking up the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and thus they contribute to eliminating the ongoing unstable changes in climate patterns. By cutting down the trees, carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere causing environmental damages leading to global warming.

Deforestation adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads. According to the World Carfree Network, cars and trucks account for about 14 percent of global carbon emissions, while scientists attribute upwards of 15 percent to deforestation.

The average temperature of Earth has risen rapidly since the last century. If the temperature continues to increase at this rate, higher temperatures would lead to the melting of glaciers. This in turn would trigger a rise in the sea levels resulting in the submersion of the coastal areas. Deforestation also causes soil erosion which leads to silt entering the lakes, streams and other water sources.

Creeping deforestation is causing severe damage to the environment. Everything in nature is interconnected and interdependent. If the ecological balance is disturbed, the very existence of humans on earth would be in danger. We depend on the environment for the air we breathe, for the food we eat and for the water we drink. No human would be able to exist without these bounties of nature. It is about time we realised the importance of the preservation of forests and the ecological system and take corrective action to reverse the deforestation process.

Corrective action is needed both at government and individual levels. Measures to arrest deforestation are not only the government’s responsibility. We humans rely on nature for our basic needs and have equal responsibility in the matter. We can help restore forests by restoring the damaged ecosystem through plantation of trees on lands where forests have been cut down. We need to encourage people to live in an environmental-friendly way that includes minimizing urbanization and restricting industries that cut down forests. We should instead support the industries that operate in ways that have the minimal damage on the environment.

The KP government in 2014 launched “the Billion Tree Tsunami” project which aimed to restore the degraded and deforested land. Under this initiative, over 350,000 hectares of forests were planted in an effort to combat climate change. Pakistan cannot let its environment be destroyed for short-term gains. We must plan ahead and find environmentally sustainable solutions to the challenge of climate change.