Deforestation-The Present and Future Perspectives

What is Deforestation?

Deforestation involves the conversion of forested regions to non-forest land for the use of pastures for livestock, logging companies, industrial gain, urban use, or simply to become a wasteland. Starting around the mid-1800s, the destruction of forests on a worldwide basis experienced a significant increase. Acid rain attacked the forests in Europe and considerable stretches of land in Siberia were harvested after the fall of the Soviet Union. In recent years, we learn that Afghanistan no longer possesses more than 70% of its forests scattered about the country.

Causes of Deforestation:

1. Agricultural Activities: As earlier mentioned in the overview, agricultural activities are one of the major factors affecting deforestation. Due to overgrowing demand for food products, the huge amount of trees are fell down to grow crops and for cattle grazing.
2. Logging: Apart from this, wood based industries like paper, matchsticks, furniture etc also need a substantial amount of wood supply. Wood is used as fuel both directly and indirectly, therefore, trees are chopped for supplies. Firewood and charcoal are examples of wood being used as fuel. Some of these industries thrive on illegal wood cutting and felling of trees.
3. Urbanization: Further on order to gain access to these forests, the construction of roads are undertaken; here again trees are chopped to create roads. Overpopulation too directly affects forest covers, as with the expansion of cities more land is needed to establish housing and settlements. Therefore, forest land is reclaimed.
4. Desertification of land: Some of the other factors that lead to deforestation are also part natural and part anthropogenic like Desertification of land. It occurs due to land abuse making it unfit for the growth of trees. Many industries in petrochemicals release their waste into rivers which result in soil erosion and make it unfit to grow plants and trees.
5. Mining: Oil and coal mining require the considerable amount of forest land. Apart from this, roads and highways have to be built to make way for trucks and other equipment. The waste that comes out from mining pollutes the environment and affects the nearby species.
6. Forest Fires: Another example would be forest blazes; Hundreds of trees are lost each year due to forest fires in various portions of the world. This happens due to extreme warm summers and milder winters. Fires, whether caused by man or nature results in huge loss of forest cover.

Effects of Deforestation:

1. Climate Imbalance: Deforestation also affects the climate in more than one ways. Trees release water vapor into the air, which is compromised on with the lack of trees. Trees also provide the required shade that keeps the soil moist. This leads to the imbalance in the atmospheric temperature further making conditions for the ecology difficult. Flora and fauna across the world are accustomed to their habitat. This haphazard clearance of forests has forced several of these animals to shift from their native environment. Due to this several species are finding it difficult to survive or adapt to new habitats.
2. Increase in Global Warming: Trees play a major role in controlling global warming. The trees utilize the greenhouse gasses, restoring the balance in the atmosphere. With constant deforestation the ratio of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has increased, adding to our global warming woes.
3. Soil Erosion: Also due to the shade of trees the soil remains moist. With the clearance of tree cover, the soil is directly exposed to the sun, making it dry.
4. Floods: When it rains, trees absorb and store a large amount of water with the help of their roots. When they are cut down, the flow of water is disrupted and leads to floods in some areas and droughts in other.
5. Wildlife Extinction: Due to massive felling down of trees, various species of animals are lost. They lose their habitat and forced to move to new location. Some of them are even pushed to extinction. Our world has lost so many species of plants and animals in the last couple of decades.

International Scenario:

However, no other worldwide land source has been hit as hard as the tropical rainforests, where the rate of destruction is unimaginable. Nearly half of the mature tropical forests in the world (ranging between 750 and 800 million hectares of the original 1.5 to 1.6 billion hectares that previously decorated the planet) have gone. As humans are constantly in search for more ways to accommodate a rapidly growing population, they become the largest cause of deforestation.
Trees are cut and burned down for a number of reasons. Forests are logged to supply timber for wood and paper products, and to clear land for crops, cattle, and housing. Other causes of deforestation include mining and oil exploitation, urbanization, acid rain and wildfires. And according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the 33 million acres of forestland that are lost annually around the globe are responsible for 20% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.  Deforestation also contributes to air and water pollution, a loss of biodiversity, erosion, and climatic disruption.


As deforestation contributes to air and water pollution, a loss of biodiversity, erosion, and climatic disruption. The global climate agreement reached in Paris marks a historic moment for forests as they are now enshrined in international climate action. All countries agreed on simple but strong language that operationalizes forest protection and flips the ‘on’ switch for the international finance to make it happen. It also brings in the necessary technical and scientific rules to make sure there is the blueprint to build national forest protection plans. In doing so, they expanded the opportunities for forests to play a key part in our global response to climate change, helping to achieve both mitigation and adaptation goals.

Pakistan’s Scenario:

Pakistan is among those countries, where deforestation rate is so high. App. 4.8% of the total land area of Pakistan is under forests. The remaining forests are very diverse in nature and of significant importance to the country’s economy and livelihoods of the local people. The forest area under the authority of Forest Department is 4.8% and about only 26% are productive forests, the rest is kept in the protected and reserved category. The population growth in the Pakistan is estimated 2.6%, which shows the high pressure on the natural resources.
There is not just population needs exert pressure on the one of the most important and major country’s natural resource, there are many parameters effecting on the state of forests. Some factors/parameters responsible for the plight of forests in Pakistan are going to described;
Factors responsible for plight of forests in Pakistan:
·         Energy requirements
·         Timber harvesting
·         Unsustainable forest management practices
·         Over grazing
·         An over view of over grazing trend
·         Agriculture-forestry interfaces issues
·         Unsustainable deforestation
·         Impact of deforestation on biodiversity
·         Key issues and an overview of the overall state of forests and forestry
The major direct causes include:

1. Overexploitation of forests for fuelwood, timber, grazing of livestock and KPK due to the imbalance in the demand and the production capacity of forests as well as without investing in and ensuring regeneration.
2. Conversion of forests (even on steep hill slopes) into agricultural lands: unplanned developments, especially for housing and communication infrastructure.

The main underlying causes include;

1. Rapid increase in population and change in lifestyles.
2. The poverty of rural communities due to lack of sustainable livelihoods and their high dependence on forests not only for meeting subsistence needs for wood products but also for income generation.
3. Lack of alternate means of energy, especially for rural households.
4. Weak capacities of the public sector agencies and the local communities to manage their forests sustainably.
5. Lack of advanced technology to manage and regenerate the forests sustainably.
6. Lack of recognition of environmental services including regulation of yield of water, biodiversity conservation, carbon fixing and amelioration of climate, countryside recreation and ecotourism and control of soil erosion.
7. Lack of involvement of stakeholders in forest management and open and transparent benefits sharing. Sustainable forest management is not practiced in its complete form and true sense as its parameters are not yet understood by the forest managers.
Trends in Forecast Values of Forest Areas in Pakistan for the Years 2005-2020
Linear projections are interpreted as follows:
• No change in forest area in KPK Province is predicted till 2020
• Punjab will have an increasing trend at a rate of 16,000 ha per annum tripling its forest area by 2020
• Forests will continue to expand in AJK at a rate of 7,000 ha per annum
• 23,000 ha per annum increase in forest area is expected in Punjab and AJK during the next two decades
• The forest area in Sindh will keep on shrinking at a rate of 5,000 ha per annum. At this rate, Sindh will lose half of its existing forests by 2020
• Deforestation is likely to continue in Balochistan at 12,000 ha per annum, the province losing half of its existing forests by 2020


The conclusion from these predictions is that Balochistan, Sindh and Northern Areas will lose a total of 51,000 ha per annum during the next two decades. The net result of the linear model forecast for the four provinces, Northern Areas and AJK predicts decrease in the total forest area of Pakistan at a rate of 28,000 ha per annum till 2020. In other words, the total forest area of Pakistan is likely to be 2.78 million ha in 2020 against 3.29 million ha in 2001. At a certain stage in the future, forest areas in the provinces, Northern Areas and AJK would stabilize and complete deforestation of any forest type would certainly not happen in Pakistan notwithstanding the high rate of deforestation of natural forests recorded in the past.

The Most Likely Situation in Upcoming Future:
·         The natural forests will degrade further at least at the rate of 0.67% annually
·         The standing volume of trees on farmlands will increase at the rate of 3.68% per year
·         Generally, the watersheds and rangelands will degrade further. However, the water sheds of mega-dams will start receiving attention for improvement
·         The government’s main thrust is going to be on bringing wastelands mainly under tree cover and to increase trees on farmlands
·         The trend of conversion of coniferous forests on steep hillsides for cultivation will slow down due to low productivity and profitability of agriculture
·         The ban on commercial harvesting may be lifted but regeneration of felled areas will get more funding and attention
·         Irrigation water supplies will continue to decrease and irrigated plantations will suffer more from water shortage in the future
·         Use of wood, as fuel, will no longer be a cheaper option in the wake of inflated rates of forest labour and transportation charges of fuelwood
·         The use of alternatives for timber (construction material and furniture made of iron etc.) and fuelwood (natural gas, biogas and LPG, off-grid small and medium hydropower in mountains) will increase significantly
·         The share of the forest sector in providing employment will decline slightly.
However, some opportunities for employment will be created for qualified foresters to work with NGOs and the private sector. But the impact on the overall situation of employment will not be significant. Employment in the wood-based industry is likely to stay at the current level till 2020 because the expansion of the wood-based industry is not foreseen.

What Would Happen With Forests?
An Overview by Major Types;

Coniferous Forest:
The total area under coniferous forests is expected to decline at the rate of 40,100 ha per annum. If Pakistan is really unfortunate to have this high rate of loss in the next two decades, then by 2020 only 0.632 million ha of coniferous forests will be standing against 1.512 million ha in 1992.

Sub-Tropical Dry Forest:
 Scrub forests are likely to expand at a rate
of 13,200 ha per annum reaching a total area of 1.719 million ha by 2020 from the existing 1.323 million ha .This may be due to deterioration of coniferous forest into the scrub. Mostly this will happen in KPK, Punjab, and AJK

Riverine Forest:
The riverine forests in Sindh are expected to decline from 95,000 ha in 2001 to 60,000 ha in 2020 at the rate of 400 ha per annum but smoothing trend analysis has predicted that total riverine forests in Pakistan will stabilize at around 120,000 ha by 2020.

Irrigated Forest: 
The irrigated plantations of Punjab and Sindh are likely to expand at a rate of 3,900 ha per annum with the increase in total area from 174,000 ha in 2001 to 254,000 ha by 2020. The total area of mangrove forests in Sindh and Balochistan will decline from 158,000 ha (2001) to 52,000 ha by 2020 at the rate of
4,900 ha per annum with complete deforestation by 2030


The Real Status of Plight, technically, No One Knows the Exact Area of Forests in Pakistan. There are the evidences; There is considerable debate over the precise area under forests in Pakistan (UNCED, 1992) Pakistan has 4.2 million ha covered by forests and trees, which represents 4.8 percent of the total land area (Forestry Sector Master Plan Project, 1993, Deptt. Of Forestry, GOP). Economic Survey of Pakistan (2001-02) shows that forest area has increased over the time, from 3.46 million ha in 1990 to 3.79 million ha in 2001-02. According to the FAO report, “State of Forests, 2001,” the total forest area of Pakistan (sum of natural forests plus forest plantation) decreased from 2.75 million ha in 1990 to 2.36 million ha in 2000. The Asian Development Bank claims that forest cover dropped from 3.6% of the total land in 1990 to 3.2% of the total land in 1999. The total forest cover area of Pakistan is 5.1% (PFI, 2012). FAO (2007) reported that the total area of forests in the country is 4.34 million ha (5.01%)

According to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan (2002), on planning front our government agencies still look at FSMP as a reference point. It is not an operational planning document. PFRI study that was conducted with improved ground resolution satellite images and an intensive terrestrial inventory, have already challenged the accuracy of data and statistics provided in the earlier studies about forestry resources in KPK.

There is a sheer need to reassess the area under forest cover in Pakistan utilizing the latest technology and accompanied by intensive terrestrial inventory. Otherwise, any future planning based on the Government of Pakistan’s current claim that forest cover in Pakistan is increasing would not be successful.

Timber Mafia
There were reports from 1995 onward of large-scale illegal timber harvesting in almost all regions of KPK, including Malakand and Upper Swat. Also, lorry-loads of timber, illegally cut in northern Pakistan, were sent to Afghanistan to reappear in Pakistan but now declared as Afghanistan out-sourced. From Hazara & Kohistan about 0.6 million cubic feet standing trees were cut and smuggled down-country (The Nation, November 1999).
How could We Create a Better Future?
The main areas of focus for remedying the situation include:
·         Sustainable use and management of natural forests, irrigated plantations, rangelands, watersheds, wider forest landscapes, wildlife and protected areas
·         Forestry interventions for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation
·         Sustainable exploitation, value addition and marketing of KPK
·         Alternative sustainable livelihoods including community-based ecotourism and countryside recreation
·         Prevention and control of forest fires, diseases, parasites and pests
·         Enhancing irrigation efficiency in plantations
·         Promotion of alternatives for timber and firewood
·         Meeting the gap in supply and demand of wood and wood products, e.g. paper and pulp, through imports
·         Safeguarding the forests from transfer of land for non-forestry purposes, encroachment
·         Access to new efficient technologies
·         Mitigating or reducing the adverse impacts of local or regional development initiatives on forests and negative influences of the factors external to forestry
The Key Approaches to Remedying the Situation are:
·         Pakistan requires policy, legal, institutional and financial reforms in the forestry sector as well as institutional strengthening and competency development, stakeholder participation and an enabling environment for sustainable management of forest and other allied resources. The full potential of Federal Forestry Board should also be utilized to enhance the effectiveness of the Board.
·         Provincial governments should formulate their own strategies and action plans to achieve the goals and objectives of the national policy and MEAs to address their province-specific issues and priorities.
Institutional Reforms:
·         The Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI), as the prime forestry research and education institute in the country, should be strengthened for a revised mandate and approaches including networking and incorporating comprehensive IT-based forest management.
·         Establishing a sound and scientific database geared to meeting the requirements of policy, planning, management and assessment of current global trends, the structure/staffing, etc.
·         Strengthening the Office of the Inspector General of Forests for policy, coordination, and leadership role, accessing and providing funds and expertise to the provincial forest departments, interaction with donors, international and regional organizations and secretariats of MEAs, inter- and intra-ministry liaison, coordination with civil society organizations, access to and making new forest-related technologies available to the provincial forest departments.
Forestry Education at PFI:
There is a growing realization that the curriculum for graduate courses at the PFI has not kept pace with the changing needs of expertise in the sector for example:
·         Sustainable forest management
·         Business management
·         Participatory forest management
·         Forest assessment, integrated planning and management, monitoring and evaluation
·         Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)
·         IT-based databases and operations (GIS, GPS)
·         Forest management approaches other than legal options e.g. stakeholder participation
·         Biodiversity conservation, protected area planning and management
·         Forest production-related technologies including nurseries and regeneration; innovative ways of financing and environmental economics for valuation of forest services
·         Efficient irrigation technologies
·         Cost effective control of forest fires, weeds, pests and diseases
·         Restoration of forests, protected areas, watersheds and rangelands after earthquakes as well as restoration of abandoned mining quarries
·         Sustainable farm management, business management, environmental assessment and participatory forest management
·         A system of updating knowledge and keeping abreast with new developments through refresher/in-service courses needs to be established at the PFI to enable the foresters to meet challenges being faced due to globalization including climate change and SFM.
·         Forestry research: Research should focus on policy research and applied research on priority forestry issues to be useful for policy makers and forest managers respectively.
The others vital steps must be taken to stop deforestation:
1-Pressuring Corporations and Markets:
If corporations have the power to destroy the world’s forests, they also have the power to help save them. Companies can make an impact by introducing zero deforestation policies and cleaning up their supply chains. That means holding their suppliers accountable for producing commodities like timber, beef, soy, palm oil and paper in a way that has a minimal impact on natural forests and the climate. Companies can also introduce paper procurement policies that set ambitious targets to maximize use of recycled wood, pulp, paper and fiber in their products and ensure that any virgin fiber used is certified by a third party certification system such as the Forest Stewardship Council. But these corporations haven’t taken action on their own. That’s why we’re investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse by corporations. And thanks to your actions, major companies are changing their ways. Learn more about what corporations like Kimberly-Clark, Kraft and Burger King have done on their end to stop deforestation.
2-Promoting Sustainable Consumer Options:
When consumers speak, corporations listen. Individuals can make a difference in the fight to save forests by setting the best example. We can all use the power of our purchases to put pressure on companies that have bad environmental practices.
By buying recycled or certified wood products, only supporting brands with zero deforestation policies, and getting others to do the same, we can send a message loud and clear that companies need to be part of the effort to create a deforestation-free future.
3-Changing the Politics:
If we’re going to stop deforestation, we need government to do its part. Specifically, we need world leaders to embrace ambitious domestic and international forest policies based on the latest science. In the U.S., we use laws like the Wilderness Act, the Lacey Act and the Roadless Rule to protect our forests and stop illegal wood products from entering the US marketplace. We also support and use global treaties like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to help protect forests and the endangered plant and animal species that rely on forests for habitats. And globally, we urgently need commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in tropical forest developing nations.
Get Up, and Lets Ready to Save the Future
We Can Do It, Together…
Thank You!

Ron Nielsen, The Little Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of Our Planet, Picador, New York (2006) 2008. Demographic Indicators – 1998 Census, Population Census Organization of Pakistan.
GOP. 1992. Pakistan Forestry Sector Master Plan.
Asia-pacific forestry sector outlook study ii,working paper series, working paper no.  Apfsos ii/wp/2009/28, Pakistan forestry outlook study by office of the inspector general of forests, ministry of environment, government of Pakistan.
Ahmed et all, Decline of conifer forest cover in Pakistan: a GIS approach, Pak. J. Bot., 44(2): 511-514, 2012.
Suleri, A.Q. The State of Forests in Pakistan through a Pressure-State-Response Framework, Working Paper Series # 82, 2002. A publication of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The News, 1999

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