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Wildlife: Environmental destruction

February 22, 2014


BURNING forests and hillsides is a completely thoughtless act that destroys both forest cover and the environment

With less than five per cent forest cover left, Pakistan is in desperate need of more and more trees, yet annual, or biannual, tree planting campaigns are not improving tree cover as they should.

The fact that these baby trees are sadly neglected after being planted is one thing but, the real culprits behind loss of precious forest cover — trees are the lungs of the world remember — are the people of the Murree Hills and adjacent areas who, each and every single year, go mad setting the forests on fire!

This winter, having been extremely dry, the pyromaniacs set about burning the forests and hillsides everywhere they possibly could: the same across the Jhelum Valley in Azad Kashmir and these fires burn day and night without hindrance.

Local authorities, the Forestry Department and even World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan, do absolutely nothing to stop this terrible destruction of the environment and all that lives there.

As the fires rage, one can literally hear the haunting cries of barking deer as their habitat goes up in flames around them and birds flying to what they hope is safety, call out in frightened distress but the pyromaniacs refuse to listen to reason. They just want to burn everything in the natural world out of existence and are completely thoughtless about the inevitable consequences.

The people, largely uneducated, will yell and scream when landslides, caused by deforestation, destroy parts of their land or damage their homes. They complain, bitterly, when, due to lack of snowfall or rain, they suddenly find that water supplies have, as they do, run dry. They also complain of eye and chest infections in the extreme cold yet fail to comprehend that illness is increased by the amount of smoke particles hanging low in the atmosphere which, heavy with smoke, cuts down the strength of the winter sunshine to make the temperatures lower still. Explaining to them that trees, especially in the form of entire forests, attract clouds and therefore actively encourage snow and rainfall is of no use as this is something they refuse to accept!

They claim that they are only burning dead grass so that it growers greener next season but this is patently untrue. They are, in real terms, trying to hide the fact that they have been stealing trees for use as firewood instead of buying it from the market.

It is up to educated people like you, to help prevent such stupidities from continuing to take place and to, when and if the opportunity arises, explain to less educated or illiterate people — taking care to be patient with them — that without trees and the important biodiversity of forest environment, the climate will change faster and faster and so on, until life, as we know it, will come to a complete standstill and survival will be very difficult indeed.