ISLAMABAD: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Friday with only 5.7pc of land, or around 4.54 million hectares under forest cover, the country’s deforestation rate is the second highest in Asia, after Afghanistan and is well below the recommended cover of 25pc.

In a statement, WWF said that the recent flash floods in parts of Balochistan, Kachho in Sindh and widespread rains in Karachi, Lahore and other cities, call for a joint effort to mitigate the destructive impacts of climate change and plan effective strategies to deal with such situations.

On Pakistan’s Independence Day, WWF-Pakistan emphasised adopting nature-based solutions, reviving natural waterways, halting deforestation, promoting environment-friendly tourism and conserving rainwater through effective and innovative storage systems in place at different scales.

WWF-Pakistan also appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative to increase green cover and plant more trees across the country. These plantation drives will help mitigate climate change impacts, protect wildlife and promote livelihoods coupled with creating more green jobs, said WWF.

Citizens urged to conserve nature by planting more trees

In the past year, from July 2019, to June 2020, WWF-Pakistan with support from relevant government departments, local communities and students, planted approximately 670, 000 saplings of various native trees including mangroves and fruit trees in different cities and rural areas in the country.

Estimates suggest that a single mature tree will sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide at an average of 50 pounds per year. It is expected that 670, 000 trees planted on 600 hectares will sequester 15, 195.36 tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide, said WWF.

According to WWF, these plantations will also improve the groundwater table, mitigate sea intrusion and soil erosion, and enhance income generation opportunities for local communities including women.

Sharing his comments, WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi Khan said the organisation is making efforts to protect Pakistan’s threatened forests, incredible wildlife, precious freshwater and other natural resources.

He said that no single organisation can do this alone but this can be achieved by working together with Pakistanis.

He appealed to the public to support conservation organisations in such campaigns, which helped increase forest cover, conserve wildlife and protect the environment in the country. He asked citizens to become the voice of trees, snow leopards, Indus river dolphins and other voiceless wildlife.

Hammad Khan emphasised that everyone should stand up against wildlife crime, deforestation, and many other threats to nature. “We must protect our natural resources and the environment not only for future generations, but for ourselves, if we are to survive,” the conservationist said.

Wildlife in Pakistan is facing a crisis as populations of various species are declining due to threats such as illegal wildlife trade, loss in habitat due to urbanisation, increasing pollution and climate change. WWF said that it sought support of concerned citizens to enhance conservation work in Pakistan such as contributing to the salary of a community member to monitor beaches for poaching of turtle eggs during nesting season, establishing a home-based/kitchen gardening project to support alternate livelihood generation for local communities. It asked for reducing pressure on fisheries, contributing to fuel-efficient stoves for rural women and other such environment friendly initiatives.

On Pakistan’s Independence Day, WWF urged its supporters to not only celebrate independence but also take part in planting saplings across Pakistan by helping the organisation raise funds for 14, 000 saplings in one day.

It encouraged donors to contribute through its website.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2020