PESHAWAR, July 18: In contrast to the general perception of massive deforestation, the forest cover in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has increased from 17 per cent to 19 per cent, according to provincial environment and forest minister Wajid Ali Khan.

He was addressing a seminar on ‘strengthening participatory forest governance and equitable resource rights regime in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ here on Wednesday.

The seminar was jointly organised by the Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (Safi) and Strengthening Participatory Organisations (SPO).

Mr Wajid said a few months ago, the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with a private firm under Redd (reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation) mechanism and had been taking practical steps to decide about other terms and conditions.

Provincial minister Wajid and provincial forest secretary Said Bacha Bukhari informed the participants that according to a study conducted by Pakistan Forest Institute, the forest cover had increased to around 19 per cent from 17 per cent.

They added that the study was conducted with the help of satellite imageries and modern techniques, while findings would be made public in near future.

The two explained the background about signing a MoU with a UK based firm, Merlin’s Wood, under the Redd programme and said a final contract would only be made after the people of the said forest areas, where the project would be implemented, took them into confidence.

Mr Wajid said climate change was a global issue mostly because of industrialisation and Pakistan had very little role to play in this respect.

Secretary Bacha Bukhari and Redd mechanism expert Sohail Khan, explained the salient features of the Redd programme provided under the UN mechanism saying it was aimed at creating an incentive for developing countries to protect and wisely use their forest resources, contributing to the global fight against climate change.

Safi president Riaz Mohammad Khan said due to certain bureaucratic hurdles the stakeholders had often not been taken into confidence before making any major decisions or formulating policies regarding forests. He said Redd might be a good program but before entering into final contract with a private firm, the government should take all stakeholders into confidence about the positive and negative aspects of the deal.

A representative of SPO, Ijaz Durrani, said rights-based approach should be adopted for development and governance. He said good governance was possible only when the civil society and the government move ahead side by side.

The seminar was also addressed by an expert on environment, Mohammad Riaz, secretary general of Safi Jamshed Khan, chief Conservator Forests Sanaullah Khan and several members from forest areas of the province.

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