Nurturing forests through conservation
Speakers demanded the revision of forest laws, addressing land ownership and judicious distribution of royalty in forest communities. Dr Babar Shahbaz, a professor at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, expressed that sustainable forest governance is only possible if it is rooted in collective local action. He expressed that there is no easy way to overcome the multidimensional problems involved in forest management, as managing natural resource conflicts is an integral part of natural resource governance.
SDPI Senior Research Associate Shakeel Ahmad Ramay said Pakistan is vulnerable to a multitude of negative implications of climate change, including droughts, the impact of rising sea level, melting glaciers and changing weather patterns. He added that experts predict that these factors would adversely affect agricultural production and may decrease yields by as much as 30 per cent over the next 20 years.
He said that depleting water resources and the productivity scenario are in stark contrast with the enormous increase in population and that they combine to present a very gloomy picture. He cited a recent SDPI study which showed that 48.7 per cent of Pakistanis are food insecure and urged the need to take immediate measures to cope with the situation.
Kanwar Iqbal of SDPI explained the background of the United Nations’ REDD+ mechanism, carbon credits generated by projects and current developments on national level in Pakistan. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
Iqbal said though it is a late, Pakistan has formally entered the UN-REDD Programme. He also discussed challenges arising from the devolution the Ministry of Environment, specifically because REDD+ demands the immediate formation of national level policies.
Social Activist Tahira Abdullah expressed concern over the rapidly diminishing forest cover in Pakistan, which has fallen to 2.5 per cent of total area. She said that the use of wood as fuel and its commercial use in general should be discouraged by imposing taxes. She also highlighted the need for a rigorous campaign to strictly enforce policies to protect forests and the promotion of sustainable forest management policies.
Forest community representatives Riaz Muhammad Khan and Amir Muhammad Khan said that illegal logging, which is carried out with the complicity of forest officials, is behind the massive deforestation and presents a major hindrance in sustainable forest management. They were of the view that those involved in illegal logging sabotage joint forest management committees, and are also responsible for all the hardships being faced by forest communities.