Pakistan’s deforestation rate world’s highest, observes LHC – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: With the annual deforestation rate in Pakistan registered as the highest in the world, the Lahore High Court has observed that this trend will lead to an increase in the spread of life-threatening diseases and ordered the government of Punjab, the Authority Defense Housing and several other development authorities that make a comprehensive policy for planting trees and penalize those who remove, cut or damage trees.

The deforestation rate in the country has been estimated between 0.2 and 0.5 percent annually, the highest in the world, representing a decrease of four to six percent in its wood biomass per year, the LHC verdict regretted.

Written by Judge Jawad Hasan, the ruling, citing an investigation report, noted that natural forest cover had been reduced from 3.59 million hectares to 3.32 million hectares at an average annual rate of 27,000 hectares.

Citing the 2010 research report of the National Environmental Information System (NEIMS), the trial feared that natural resources were declining at such an alarming rate that the entire forest area would be consumed in the next five years.

Orders the government of Punjab, DHA and several development authorities to develop comprehensive policies to increase forest cover

NEIMS is a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project that details the environment, biodiversity and ecological zones in Pakistan from forests to mountains and threatened flora and fauna and animal species. The report noted that only 4.72 million hectares or 3.36{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of its land mass was forested, since there had been a tendency to decline in afforestation since 2000.

The LHC verdict recalled that the value of the intangible benefits of afforestation was eight times greater than the tangible value of forest products and services. Many intangible benefits were derived from the forest, including the production of oxygen, the value of the river basin, the scenic benefits, the synergy of the ecosystem and a variety of other values ​​essential for human health and quality of life.

Forests also provide a series of crucial ecosystem services, such as their role in carbon sequestration from the atmosphere, the protection of upstream watersheds, the conservation of biodiversity and genetic reserves for future generations and the provision of landscapes .

Forests are both a source of carbon dioxide when destroyed or degraded, and a sink when conserved, managed or planted sustainably, according to the report, explaining that between 60 and 90 of all terrestrial species were found in forests that still have widespread economic and medicinal uses. Unknown to humanity.

Citing the report, the ruling said that forest vegetation and soils contained 40 percent of the carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems.

As the population grew, the demand for drinking water sharpened, the court observed, adding that this need for water added to the need for agriculture, sanitation, cooking and other uses.

Until two decades ago, no one in Pakistan had thought about buying water, but nowadays people had to buy it due to depletion of forests in river basins, according to the verdict.

According to the trial, forest and plant cover is necessary to stop runoff and filter rainwater. When the trees are in place, the flow of rainwater from the descent to the nearest stream decreases. Once decreased, rainwater was filtered to fill underground or aquifer storage tanks. In addition, water can be absorbed by tree roots so that it can be reused as rainwater. Forests prevent non-saline water of drinking quality from draining too quickly to mix with salt water from the oceans. Once salted, water takes much longer to re-enter the freshwater portion of the hydrological cycle, where it is most useful for humans.

The roots of the trees keep the soil in place and the fertile soil that is needed to cultivate would be washed away by storms, decreasing the amount of land available for agriculture. Rich soil transfers nutrients to food, which contributes to human health.

Forests provide multiple benefits for the environment, people and animals, as they cool the air temperature by releasing water vapors in the air, while during the day the trees generate oxygen and store carbon dioxide that helps clean the air.

In addition, forests attract wildlife and offer them food and protection. They reduce light reflection, offer a sound barrier and help guide wind direction and speed. Therefore, forests help control the level of flooding and soil erosion, the court noted in its recent ruling.

The court ordered the authorities, including DHA, development authorities and other relevant institutions, to make and adopt comprehensive policies regarding tree planting in urban areas with experience in Urban Plantation Policy and to establish their own policy under the respective laws and immediately start planting trees with the application to the PHA and other departments and maintain the same by imposing fines and penalties on local officials or any citizen.

The court also ordered all educational institutes, hospitals and parking area management to develop and implement policies for planting trees in open spaces.

Similarly, the Punjab government was also instructed to impose sanctions and fines on those involved in cutting down, removing and damaging trees.

Posted in Dawn, September 4, 2019



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