PESHAWAR: Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said on Wednesday that his government was fighting against the timber mafia, which had destroyed the forests and caused a huge damage to the environment.

He was speaking at the concluding session of the three-day national conference on climate change, organised by the Climate Change Center at the Agriculture University, Peshawar. He said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had confiscated timber worth Rs10 billion, which the timber mafia and its handlers in bureaucracy had cut down in the name of windfall.

He said that the government had zero tolerance for those spoiling and destroying the natural assets and sources.

Mr Khattak said that his government had focused on the plantation of saplings across the province to combat the rising temperature. He said that by the end of December this year they would achieve the target of planting 500 million saplings. He hoped that the academic institutions and research centres would guide the government on coping with the changing weather pattern. He said that during the last 70 years, successive provincial governments had planted only three million saplings, while the present government was determined to plant 1,000 million trees during its tenure.

Says Rs10bn illegal timber seized so far

According to the chief minister, the shrinking sources of water, deforestation and rising pollution could pose a challenge to the future generation. He said that climate change had become the people’s problem, and the universities and institutes should teach the negative effects of the climate change to the common people.

About the overall situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Meteorological Department director Mohammad Hanif said that summer had extended to 160 days from 140 days during the last 20 years. He said that the winter had shrunk to about 45 days from 60 days, while spring had become almost non-existent. He said that this was alarming, especially for crops and water resources.

The average temperature has risen over 25 years by about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius and it was increasing with the passage of every year, he added.

Mr Hanif said that monsoon had slightly increased and winter rainfall decreased, while the rain pattern had shifted to about 100 kilometers west from the north. He said that all these changes were leading to a disaster.

Dr Arjumand Nizami, country representative of Inter-Cooperation based in Pakistan, said that presentation of Dr Hanif had paved the way for the case of adaptation. She said that the only choice was to adapt to the changes already taking place. She emphasised on improving the capacity of all the institutions, researchers, organisations and farming communities. She insisted that climate and agricultural scientists must translate their findings in easily understandable messages for the end users so they could reduce their vulnerability to negative effects of climate change. Earlier, vice-chancellor Dr Zahoor Ahmad spoke about the efforts of his university and teachers in the field of research.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2016