The Industrial Revolution in the 18th century brought drastic changes to the manufacturing industry that gradually led to economic growth and mass urbanisation both in the developed and the developing world. Fast forward to the 21st century, cities have rapidly expanded with many of them under the definition of mega cities. On the other hand, even small towns and villages have developed to such an extent that they are widely considered to be part of mega cities as sub-urban regions. However, there is a huge cost to bear for such kind of expansions and that is rapid deforestation.

When discussing about Pakistan, deforestation has increased by multiple folds due to which its rate is now the highest in Asia. The failure to conserve forests in the country had a considerably large negative environmental and economic impact that may likely reduce the feasibility of sustaining clean air and soil for agricultural purposes over the next couple of decades. International experts have called for preserving forests at a sustainable rate of 12 percent but recent figures show that Pakistan’s total land reserved for forests has fallen to as low as 2.2 percent, which is quite abysmal. While in Europe and North America, deforestation is regulated and emphasis is given to mass plantation of saplings; this is not the case for Pakistan where there is no check and balance. Moreover, only 50 percent of the 400 million saplings planted in the last few years were effective. Timber mafia still has a considerable influence over tree cuttings and some trees such as Juniper are on the verge of extinction from the country.

The government periodically announces a national policy for preserving forested areas but it’s almost useless given the non-existence of effective regulatory measures. The Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid announced an amended version of this policy last year but it is yet to be seen whether it has been effective or not. Even the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s ‘One Billion Trees’ project under Imran Khan’s guidance couldn’t adequately sustain due to semi-negligence of the local authorities. It must be understood that there are grave consequences of mass deforestation on the overall ecology. Lack of sustained forestation causes reduction in air quality, droughts, threatens the cycle of food security and even flash floods that could prove disastrous for settled villages or towns. Furthermore, the emergence of housing societies and colonies in the form of concrete jungles due to worldwide population boom has aggravated environmental degradation. Supplemented with industrial pollution and mass availability of vehicles, toxic gases and acids such as carbon monoxide, CFCs and acid rain are prevailing in and around settled areas that are marred by deforestation. The concerned authorities in Pakistan must seriously introspect and deliberate upon the impact of this menace that could cause far reaching consequences for our future generations. A safe and healthy environment is the only key for conserving Mother Nature that is responsible for ecological cycle and biodiversity.

Reporter. Deforestation. Daily Times, February 21, 2017.

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