Gilgit-Baltistan: Deforestation is More Complex and Pervasive in GB

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LAHORE (ET): The riverine forests in southern Punjab are being chopped down at an “alarmingly fast rate”, according to a recent survey by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P).

“In Punjab, there are three forest types – the pine forests of Murree, the scrubs of the Salt Range and the riverine forests near Kot Addu, Vehari and Muzaffargarh,” said Ibrahim Khan, the WWF-P senior manager for conservation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at a workshop here on Monday.

The riverine forests, mainly along the River Indus in south Punjab, are being chopped down at an alarmingly fast rate compared to other natural forests in the Punjab, Khan said.

In the recent survey, residents near forests in 10 districts – two each in the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, and one each in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir – were interviewed to find out why trees were being chopped down.

“Deforestation is far more complex and pervasive in Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa than Balochistan, Sindh and the Punjab,” said Khan. This was because in the former areas, people were more dependent on the forests for their livelihoods and the timber mafias were stronger.

The survey was conducted as part of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project, funded by the United Nations. The two-day workshop aims to educate stakeholders on how REDD can bring positive change in forested areas.

The workshop organised by the Ministry of Climate Change, the UN and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD),   was attended by officials from the Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries, the Livestock and Agriculture, and the Environment Protection Departments, as well as students and professors from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, the Government College University Lahore and the University of the Punjab.

The REDD project aims to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and by investing in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. So far the WWF-P has received $200,000 (Rs20 million) in funding from the UN and will receive another $100,000 (Rs10 million) in June.

The WWF-Pakistan has already hosted workshops in AJK and KPK and plans to hold them in Gilgit Baltistan, Sindh and Baluchistan next

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