Climate: (Soaring deforestation can cause human, ecological crises, warns Mushahidullah Khan)

ISLAMABAD: Taking serious note of the in-depth reports about extremely dismal state of forestry in Sindh published last month in various sections of newspapers, Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan has urged the provincial forest authorities to take measures to restore the province’s lost forest cover and bring increase to it, according to a press release issued here Sunday.

“Without such forest restoration, conservation and protection efforts, the province’s climate vulnerability is destined to aggravate in full gear and increase the pace of recurring floods, coastal cyclones, dusty storms, heat waves, jack up public health costs, further increase environmental degradation and deepen poverty,” the minister warned.

Referring to the news report, the minister Mushahidullah Khan said that the Sindh provincial government must wake up to the current state of forest cover of 2 per cent and make efforts on the urgent basis to increase it to at least 10-12 per cent to mitigate the impacts of climate change-induced disasters, particularly floods and heat wave, which show increasing trends in the province.

“Gruesome situation of rising poverty, out-migration of a huge number of rural people to cities, unchecked ecological destruction, vanishing wildlife has been further exacerbated by the paced systematic deforestation over last 30 years now, which now must be brought to an end with strong political and policy interventions to overcome these environmental challenges for the provincial government to boost environmental and health developments,” he emphasised.

This cannot, he said, be achieved without taming local landlords, local political leaders, influential, land grabbers and illegal timber trade involved in illegal tree cutting for financial gains, effective implementation of forest laws and launching aggressive tree plantation campaigns in the province where the forest area of 145,000 acres is under forcible encroachment around 64,500 acres had been illegally allotted by Sindh revenue department as the reports highlighted.

According to various reports, Sindh province’s total area of 14.091 million hectares, the province’s riverine forests have declined to 0.05 million hectares (0.35 per cent), irrigated forests to 0.082 million hectares (0.14 per cent), and mangrove forests to 0.2 million hectares (1.41 per cent) till October 2017. However, the forest cover of Sindh has reduced to 1.90 per cent from 5.11 per cent.

According to the government data, massive deforestation in Sindh took place from 1979 to 2010. Riverine forests in Hyderabad and Nawabshah districts hacked to 0.72 per cent, 5.97 per cent in Sukkur and Shikarpur, whereas 2.93 per cent in Larkana, Dadu and Khairpur districts during this period.

The minister said that large-scale deforestation in the highly climate-vulnerable province has, undoubtedly, alarmingly increase the sensitivity of the province to fallouts of climate change.

“Because, the loss/removal of trees and other vegetation can cause disturb normal weather patterns, increase and intensify summers, reduce winter days and intensity, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, heat waves, increase air pollution in the atmosphere and a host of problems for indigenous people,” he argued.

Mushahidullah Khan added further that the trees that provide shelter for some species also provide the canopy that regulates the temperature, a necessity for many others. However, its removal through deforestation would lead to a more drastic temperature variation from day to night, much like a desert, which could prove fatal for current inhabitants, crops, livestock and humans.

“If the deforestation is 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 province,” he warned.