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Lease out of the Punjab Forest Land another blow to forest conservation, WWF – Pakistan shocked, urges decision to be taken back

3 June, 2010




WWF - Pakistan is shocked that the cabinet approved to lease out 30,000 acres of forest land to unemployed youth for agricultural purposes.  This is ironic particularly when the Punjab Forest Act 1927 has been revised and approved by the Punjab cabinet to protect the forest land from such conversions. Additionally, given a situation where the Lahore High Court took Suo Moto notice concerning forest degradation and encroachments in the Murree Forest Division. Initiatives such as leasing out forest can only provide short term solutions to graduates of forestry and agriculture studies, which comprise of a fraction of young graduate Pakistanis. This will strip Punjab of its forest but will fail to provide sustainable livelihood to the youth and will exasperate socio-economic and environmental problems.  WWF – Pakistan urges that this must be immediately stopped and more viable solutions should be explored to diversify the livelihood of our youth and strengthen the economy of Pakistan.

In the Punjab Province, since 1947, over a hundred land transfers have been made, covering an area of about 40,352 ha (99,711 acres) comprising of Reserve Forest, irrigated plantations and rangeland. This land was denotified and put to non-forestry use. Of all the provinces/territories, Punjab has converted the most area for non-forest uses. The Government of Pakistan in the Mid Term Development Framework (MTDF) set a target of increasing forest cover to 5.6% by 2010 and 6% by 2015.  This MTDF was a consequence of Pakistan’s commitments to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Pakistan has an alarming rate of deforestation. The report published in 2009 by the United Nations, Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the State of the World Forests indicates that Pakistan has only 2.5 percent of its area under forest cover. Punjab already has very little forest cover, as a percentage of total land area the forest cover is only 3.1% which is at the second lowest of all provinces. The annual rate of deforestation in Pakistan is - 2.1 per cent; no Asian country has a forest degradation rate higher than this (FAO 2009).

Forests perform numerous important ecological and social services. Forests absorb water and ensure its filtered, sustained and gradual availability. Water scarcity in some countries including Pakistan is critical and continued growth of economies will require sustained freshwater availability. Forest damage increases greenhouse gases in the air which are the main contributors to the global climate change. Moreover, forest degradation causes soil erosion, damages watershed areas leading to pollution in water bodies and endangering water availability in the long term. This also impacts the wildlife by fragmenting their population and increasing conflicts between local communities and wildlife species.

 

For further information:


Uzma Khan
Director Biodiversity
WWF – Pakistan
Ph. 042 111 993 725
Email:ukhan@wwf.org.pk