KARACHI: On Tuesday, when nations around the world were celebrating International Day of Forests to highlight the importance of forests and energy, Pakistan's commercial hub and biggest city of Karachi lost an old banyan tree.
The officials of horticulture department on Tuesday cut down decades old banyan tree standing on the footpath in Jamshed Town's Allama Iqbal Road to lay underground water supply lines, officials said.
Every year, March 21 marks the International Day of Forests. The United Nations has linked this recognition to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, the theme is forests and energy. From planting trees in urban areas to reduce global warming to creating carbon stocks by increasing plantations, all activities are driven by this approach. However, government authorities have yet to consider the importance of the forests, especially in Karachi.
As the national agenda to fight climate change ramps up, one area often overlooked is the role that forests play in addressing this challenge. Climate change has emerged as the biggest threat to Pakistan's development over the past decade. This has been apparent from the increase in climate-induced natural disasters being recently experienced in this region. The intensity of glacial meltdown due to rising temperatures has resulted in destructive floods from 2010 onwards, almost on an annual basis. Forests are significant carbon sinks but their rapid conversion to supply key commodities undermines efforts on climate.
Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, in his message on International Day of Forests stressed the growing need of cultivating forests from scratch. "Drawing a comparison between the past and present I believe that the mention of the word 'forest' has become more prevalent in our day to day discussions, and rightly so. The importance of forests cannot be underestimated. We depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Yet, despite our dependence on forests, how can we still allow them to disappear?"
According to a 2015 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, the forest cover of Pakistan have been reduced to under two per cent of its land area - one of the lowest levels in the region. Similarly, according to projections in the WWF Living Forests Report, the amount of wood taken from forests and plantations each year may need to triple by 2050 even with increased recycling, reuse and efficiency.
But, according to WWF-Pakistan's experts this growing market for wood can motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests with a more sustainable plan to utilise the bounties of the forest.
WWF on the global front advocates for a transformed forest sector to ensure that vulnerable forests will be protected from illegal logging, encroachment or conversion, and that there will be no more plantations that displace communities or take away their livelihoods.