Rapid deforestation puts Pakistan’s climate policies in jeopardy


Islamabad: Pakistan remains largely prone to challenges that have thwarted its efforts to create a climate-friendly government. Of all the challenges, rapid deforestation remains one of the gravest issues faced by the country even today.

Ayaz Khan for Asia Times writes that Pakistan has suffered a significant loss to climate change in two decades from 1998 to 2018, where 9,986 people lost their lives and USD 3.8 billion was reported in economic losses. Pakistan loses 27,000 hectares of natural forest area annually.

Since 1947, Pakistan’s total forest cover has dropped from 33 per cent to 5 per cent and tree cover in the country was a mere 0.74 per cent of total land area in 2010. In 2020, Pakistan lost 69.2 hectares of tree cover, equal to 19.6 kilotons of carbon dioxide emissions.

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Dependency on firewood, urbanisation, and commodity-driven demands are leading factors in deforestation. In Pakistan, around 68 per cent depends on firewood, and the other two factors have contributed to 15 per cent of tree cover loss from 2001 to 2019.

Ayaz Khan writes that in 2019, during a case, the Lahore High Court (LHC) observed that Pakistan had the highest deforestation rate in the world.

Before that, in 2012, the Pakistani government expressed its resolve to take consolidated steps to reverse deforestation through the comprehensive National Climate Change Policy, however, the policy lacked the political will to implement it.

Although Pakistan’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is merely 0.8 per cent of the total, it remains high and costly at home given the leading factors (agriculture and industrial growth) that contribute to greenhouse gas, accounting for more than 90 per cent, writes Asia Times.

With all these criteria, Pakistan will find it hard to achieve sustained biodiversity and reduce CO2 emissions while reducing agricultural and industrial dependency, and initiating and maintaining afforestation.

Initiating massive afforestation and controlling deforestation to confront rampant climate-change effects in the future have put Pakistan’s climate-related policies to the test, Ayaz Khan writes.

Afforestation will be a daunting process in the Balochistan and Sindh provinces. However, a community-based awareness approach to counter the rising climate challenges is missing from Pakistan’s initiatives.