IN a few weeks winter will be here. In some of Balochistan’s districts such as Kalat and Ziarat, temperatures drop extremely low.
Interestingly, these districts are also home to the largest juniper forests in the world. In this forest, the trees which only grow an inch a year and are thus a great part of our national heritage as they are very rare.
The forest in Ziarat is a popular tourist spot, some 120km east of Quetta. It gained a reputation as a health resort after Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah stayed there in the last days of his life in the summer of 1948.
Last year, the BBC quoted a report submitted in April 2016 at Unesco by Pakistan’s Directorate General of Archaeology which claimed that the Ziarat forests were spread over nearly 110,000 hectares. No dendrological study has been conducted but mature trees are often thousands of years old, earning them the title of “living fossils”.
“The forest lies in mountains ranging from more than 1,000metres above sea level to nearly 3,500m above sea level. The remarkable longevity of the trees allows research into past weather conditions and makes the species significant for climate change and ecological studies,” the article said.
However, the forests are in danger as people are cutting them down at an alarming rate for energy and other commercial purposes.
Even though natural gas has been provided to Kalat and Ziarat, the pressure is so low that it is next to impossible to light up a heater. People are thus compelled to cut juniper trees, wild pistachio and other rare plants to use as fuel to survive in the biting cold.
The government should take steps to ensure uninterrupted and full gas supply to these towns and other adjoining villages to conserve our national heritage and keep the areas alive for tourists.
Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2019