Ecosystem degradation through the depletion of natural resources like cutting of trees, water, soil, air and habitat is bringing about destructive effects on the environment endangering biodiversity, experts said on Sunday. Furthermore, using agricultural land for housing societies and ill-planned cities and towns have further aggravated the situation, they said. Deforestation, in clear terms, means the felling and cutting of forest cover or tree plantations to accommodate developmental projects even for agricultural, industrial or urban use. It involves the permanent end of forest cover to make that land available for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. Therefore, the natural resources and green covers that are being depleted at a fast pace, provide the basis of our existence, that are massively under pressure as we witness the water table going down rapidly and agricultural land shrinking due to illegal construction. Noted environmentalist Mirza Sarwat urged the government to mark a comprehensive policy for Forest Management System (FMS) as deforestation was happening at a rapid pace in temperature variations, proving fatal for livestock, crops and humans. Talking to APP, he said that government should make long-term policy and arrangements by providing incentives for advanced forest management technologies, adding all city-district governments in the country should earmark certain percentage of land in their areas for forestation. Environmentalist Mahmood Khalid Qamar said that deforestation in Pakistan, was a matter of great concern, that was hitting the economy hard, adding government, private sector and all segments of society should join hands to overcome the issue of shrinking forests in Pakistan. While Defining a Forest Management System (FMS), he said that it was a process in which forests were tended, harvested and regenerated. To a query, he said that forestation was one of the most neglected areas and there was a dire need to make joint efforts to protect and enhance forests through public-private partnership. Qamar said that large-scale deforestation in the Sindh riverine forests, which was highly climate-vulnerable province, has alarmingly increased the sensitivity of the forestry and agriculture sector of the province, which is seriously becoming vulnerable to climate change impacts, like torrential floods in 2022. According to recent World Bank findings, climate change-related disasters have affected over 75 million Pakistanis during the last three decades in terms of agriculture and bio-diversity damages incurring estimated losses of over $ 29 billion (roughly $ 1 billion per annum). As Pakistan is a signatory to numerous international agreements and protocols, there was a dire need to focus on this area diligently. Therefore, the present government efficiently pleaded the case of developing nations at the Conference of Parties (CoP-27) held in Egypt this November and sailed through successfully in getting created multi-billion funds to cope with climate change challenges. “Agriculture and bio-diversity play a critical role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Asad Imran, Director Sustainable Agriculture and Food Programme at WWF told APP. Asad Imran said that without forest restoration, conservation and protection efforts, the country’s climate vulnerability could be increased, adding the pace of recurring floods, coastal cyclones, dusty storms, heat waves, environmental degradation had already further increased. He said that if the deforestation was not checked and deforested area not rehabilitated on war-footing,the rural areas, towns and cities of the province won’t be livable anymore and could lead to irreversible human and ecological crises in the country. Environmental expert Dr Maqsood Ahmed said that forest was the best way to achieve enhanced climate resilience against fallouts of the climate change impacts. Dr Maqsood said that in Pakistan, 4.8 percent of the country’s territory is covered by forests, 40 percent of which were coniferous and scrub forests in the northern regions. The remaining vegetation consists of irrigated plantations, riverine forests, mangrove forests in the Indus Delta, and trees grown on agricultural land, he informed. Pakistan is a nation that has few forests in comparison. The rapid pace of population increase is lowering the forest cover number even more, and at the moment, it is not possible to extend the forest area quickly enough to meet the demand for forest products, Maqsood added. To alleviate the problem, tree plantation drives are the need of the hour, especially on farmlands and wastelands, he said. The United Nations in its recent report said that in developing nations, deforestation is a major contributor to carbon emissions. When forests are cut down to use land for agriculture, carbon stored in trees is released as carbon dioxide (CO2), it said.Deforestation has been estimated at a rate of 13 million hectares per year, the report said.According to the UN report, Pakistan is the most heavily deforested country in Asia and the situation further has worsened after the countrywide floods in 2022.