KARACHI: Climate cha­nge has emerged as the biggest threat to Pakistan’s development over the past decade.

One simple but effe­c­tive strategy to help tackle this challenge is to increase the country’s forest cover that has been reduced to less than two per cent of its land area — one of the lowest in the region.

This was one of the key messages released by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) on Tues­day to mark the Inter­natio­nal Day of Forests.

This year, the theme is forests and energy.

“Pakistan faces a serious challenge in the shape of climate change; the increase in climate-induced natural disasters in the country in recent years points to the severity of this threat.

The intensity of glacial meltdown due to rising temperatures has resulted in des­truc­tive floods from 2010 onwards, almost on an annual basis.

“The situation underscores the need for understanding and acknowledging the role forests play in addressing climate change challenge.

“Forests are significant carbon sinks but their rapid conversion to supply key com­mo­dities undermines efforts on climate,” stated a WWF-P press release.

It stressed the need for a transformed forest sector to ensure that vulnerable forests are protected from illegal logging, encroachment or conversion, and that there would be no more plantations that displaced communities or took away their livelihoods.

Citing a 2015 United Nati­ons Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, the organisation stated that forest cover of Pakistan had been reduced to less than two per cent of its land area.

Similarly, according to projections in the Living Forests Report by the WWF, the amount of wood taken from forests and plantations each year may need to triple by 2050 even with increased recycling, reuse and efficiency.

On public-private efforts to ensure increase in forest cover, the organisation sta­t­ed that the federal ministry of climate change, thro­ugh its office of the Inspec­tor General of Forests, was implementing the Reducing Emissions from Defores­tation and Forest Degrada­tion (REDD+) Readiness Preparation Project with its support.

The organisation, apart from monitoring the Billion Tree Tsunami Project (BTTP) in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, is also providing expert opinion for the successful implementation of the project.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2017