Islamabad, May 08, 2018 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for Climate Change attended a ministerial level discussion “Forest-based solutions for accelerating achievement of the SDGs” during the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF 13) in New York, USA. While answering the questions of moderator, Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah Khan highlighted Forests in Pakistan play an important role in protection and enhancement of ecological, economic and social functions. We are strongly committed towards promoting such forest-based actions that shall address the challenges of climate change, water scarcity and land degradation.
Among few of the forest based actions initiated to achieve the objective of creating sustainable and resilient societies include. He further highlighted that we have taken various initiatives to protect our forests that includes approval of National Forest Policy-2015 that suggests measures to conserve existing forest and increase tree cover on a massive scale with community involvement, particularly on communal lands and urban areas.
It has been suggested to curb deforestation by improving coordination among all provinces and inter-linking natural forests, protected areas and wildlife habitats to reduce fragmentation. He also highlighted that approval of National Climate Change Policy-2012 of Pakistan also supports the role of forests as carbon sinks and towards mitigating adverse effects of extreme climate events. Initiation of “Green Pakistan Programme” to support achievement of forest policy objectives to afforest forest deficient areas spread across the whole country with 100 million plants.
All segments of society have been involved in planting and regeneration activity across country. He also emphasized that government of Pakistan Promoted ecological, social and cultural functions of forests through “Sustainable Land Management Programme”. It supports preparation and implementation of plans at local level to control land degradation and desertification. We are executing projects REDD plus and mangroves are improving through “Sustainable Forest Management Project”.
Spring and Monsoon tree planting campaigns are coordinated at the national level to plant on an average 80 million plants each year. Preparation of National water policy to increase efficiency of water use in different sectors. A comprehensive programme on floodwater management will be implemented with the support of Green Climate Fund. Efforts are being made to regulate flow of water in the catchment areas by increasing vegetation cover, soil conservation measures, and construction of small dams.
In response to question what are some examples of forest-based actions that you have taken in your country or would like to propose to ensure that no-one is left behind in progressing towards sustainable development, he responded Implementation of national level forest based activities have always ensured involvement of all in sustainable development. A good example of such activity was implementation of “Green Pakistan Programme” to afforest forest deficient areas spread across the whole country with 100 million plants. All segments of society are involved in the activity.
A segment of this programme also involves distribution of plants to households through volunteers. He further highlighted that we consider that forestry sector needs a central body to develop strategies for sustainable development of this sector in future. Pakistan has two tiers of governance according to constitution; forestry being provincial domain while Ministry of Climate Change provides the vital link and coordination between provinces and international community / treaties.
REDD+ implementation and grievances redressal units are being set up in provinces and adequate legal provision is being made so that no one is left out. He was further asked that what are major gaps and challenges that limit the contribution of forests to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He said Pakistan is predominantly a dry country, with about 80% of its area falling in semi-arid and arid region. The changes in water regime, due to change in weather patterns pose additional threats in the form of droughts and resultant desertification.
He further said that due to high rate of population growth, the per capita forest area of Pakistan is only 0.02 hectare per person as compared to the world average of 0.6 hectare per person. It creates imbalance in supply and demand of wood that makes sustainable management of forests difficult. Rate of deforestation does not commensurate with the rehabilitation efforts. Additionally, share of public investment towards rehabilitation is disappointedly low.
The repercussions are in the form of low growth and decline in yield of forests. Extreme weather events and changing patterns of rainfall effects natural forests due to non-sustainable supply of water, death of plants due to heat waves, increase in frost attack, etc. A repercussion of climate change induced deforestation is invasion of alien species that are taking over natural forests.
These species are not allowing natural regeneration of local plant species; hence rate of deforestation further increases. He further highlighted that diversity of landscapes and climates in Pakistan allow a wide variety of forest types to flourish that makes the sustainable management of these resources difficult.
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