KARACHI – Due to increasing population and poverty, massive forest cutting is on the rise that has changed the rain pattern, which is causing an increase in desertification and Sindh is the worst affected, disclosed experts on Thursday. Environmentalists, nature conservationists and experts said that due to the change in the weather pattern and decreasing rains, the coastal belt of the province would be hit worst by desertification where seawater would intrude the productive coastal land.
Talking to Pakistan Today on the eve of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which would be observed on June 17 (today) around the globe, experts warned taking immediate precautionary measures, otherwise the situation could be fatal. Nations around the world have been observing the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought since 1995 to promote public awareness regarding international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
This year’s theme is ‘Forests keep dry lands working’. To highlight the importance of the day, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-Pakistan organised a press briefing on Thursday. “Almost half of the total area of earth is dry and the reaming has only 24 percent forest cover. In Pakistan, 80 percent of the total land is dry and has only five percent forest cover, so we need reforestation to stop the increasing desertification,” said environmentalist and Baanhn Beli Founding President Javed Jabbar.
He said that the East Coast of the United States, South Korea, China and some other countries are the best examples of reforestation where in the past these lands had become almost dry. IUCN-Pakistan’s Balochistan Partnerships for Sustainable Development-Lasbela Coordinator Nadeem Mirbahar said that all those areas where annual rain is less than 300 millimetres are arid zones, where the chances to witness the desertification are higher.
He said, “In Pakistan, out of a total of 88 million hectors, around 63 million hectors is dry land, including the glorious mountains, deserts and other areas, so we need to restore forests in these areas to save them from desertification.”
Renowned forest expert and Environmental Ministry’s Sustainable Land Management Project-Sindh Coordinator Dr Kella Lekhraj said that desertification is adversely affecting the indigenous trees, animals, wildlife species and also human beings.
Quoting an example of some of trees of the Thar Desert, he said that guggal (commiphora wightii), gum acacia, kandi, booh and other trees are on the verge of extinction due to reduced rainfall and massive tree-cutting, followed by increasing poverty. Drainage and Irrigation Research Programme Director Engr Muhammad Khan Marri said that last year’s flood had inundated 21 million hectors of land and 17 million hectors’ riverine land, due to which there are possibilities of reforestation, but more forests are needed.
He said, “The floodwater washed away the excessive salts from the land, due to which these lands were not very productive and after the flood, positive changes have been observed.” Famous natural resource management expert at the IUCN Ghulam Qadir Shah said that due to deforestation in the country, the sea has started intruding the inland and more effects are possible in the future. He said, “Around 11 million hectors of the coastal belt of Sindh have so far been eroded by sea intrusion, for which climate change and other factors are also responsible, but the major reason is deforestation.”
He also said that Sindh is the worst desertification-affected region, especially its coastal belt. “Some people believe that by desertification, the area of the desert is expanding, which is not true. We need more forests to stop desertification from increasing,” he added.