STAFF REPORT ISB: Environmental and forest experts have expressed their concern at the rapid deforestation which is losing 27,000 hectares per year across Pakistan.

According to fresh official statistics, the country has a total forest cover of 4.4 million hectares, and the current rate of deforestation is 27,000 hectares per year.

“Timber mafias, clearing of land for development projects, burning of wood are the main reasons for deforestation across the country,” said Arid University Rawalpindi Department of Forestry Chairman Dr Mirza Sarwat Naz Beg.

The main drivers are the countrys growing population and the associated demand for wood, as well as weak governance and land encroachments, Beg added.According to an SDPI researcher, Dr Kashif Salik, Pakistans juniper forest is believed to be the worlds second largest such reserve; it is illegal to cut down juniper, whether the land is publicly or privately owned. However, he said that comprehensive data or estimation of the amount of juniper forest being cleared each year was not available.

PARC scientist Fakhar Abbas said juniper trees are being infected with fungus and bacteria due to inbreeding. “The trees are located in an isolated place and fast losing their genetic diversity,” he said.

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