ISLAMABAD: The unabated fire that turned chilgoza pine trees — the green gold of Shirani district of Balochistan — into ashes and smoke, has snatched the livelihood of the local community, which earned Rs3.5 billion through the sale of chilgoza nuts last year.

The Food and Agriculture Organi­sation (FAO) of the United Nations, which has been implementing a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project for the past four years on the conservation of chilgoza forests and the introduction of nut processing to enhance the value of the nuts for the communities, says this year the fire has snatched the main source of income of many people living in the area.

According to government estimates, 31 kilometres of forests have been damaged and burnt.

Area people earned Rs3.5bn through sale of chilgoza nuts last year

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the provincial department of forest have been working tirelessly since the onset of the fire to save these high-value and unique forests. As soon as the fire was getting out of control, the FAO was on the ground to provide technical advice and deliver tools and equipment to the forest department to support the operations launched to put out the fire.

After a rapid assessment of the ground situation, looking at the topography, wind direction and speed and meteorological forecast, FAO’s senior forest officer Dr Faizul Bari asked the provincial government that the most feasible way was to use traditional methods by establishing fire lines in the direction of the spread of the fire, along with constructing diches to stop the fire from spreading to the lower forests.

These forests are unique as they are home to rare wild animals, source of livelihood for 90 per cent local community and nurture the indigenous flora and fauna, the FAO says.

Now as the forest fire is almost over, the next immediate step is to carry out a damage assessment and prepare a restoration plan, and this needs to be urgently done. The FAO says it is at the disposal of the Balochistan government and the UN system to play its part.

The UN resident coordinator in Islam­abad has held a humanitarian meeting earlier this week in order to share information with the partners.

The Ministry of Climate Change has already started the assessment exercise.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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