There is an immediate need to provide food assistance to the local communities who have recently lost their livelihood in a major forest fire reported in the Suleiman mountain range in Balochistan. The blaze damaged an estimated 840,050 Chilgoza trees.
These concerns are raised in a survey report shared at a meeting organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-Pakistan for its national committee members on Saturday.
Giving a detailed presentation on the fire incident, IUCN official Asim Jamal said the survey showed that approximately 840,050 trees covering over 1,542 hectares of privately owned Chilgoza forests were affected.
“The fire caused a huge monetary loss, amounting to Rs4 billion. The fire kept raging for 13 days and was finally controlled by local communities, local government departments, army, Frontier Constabulary and Levies,” he said.
IUCN report says 840,050 Chilgoza trees gutted in blaze
A forest fire of this scale had occurred after 20 years, he added while citing local communities.
The survey, he said, showed that food insecurity concerns amongst the forest-resource dependent communities were very serious and they needed immediate monthly food assistance.
“They have lost their bread and butter. It’s a huge shock for the people that may change their lives for good,” he said, adding that a Chilgoza tree generally started production at the age of 40 years.
Mr Jamal also suggested a detailed damage assessment survey of the affected area as well as a fire management centre there.
He also shared a presentation on the third-party monitoring of the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami programme conducted by a consortium of IUCN, Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan highlighting the survival rate up to 90 per cent at 72pc of the sites.
The assessment reports recommended further improvement in the assisted natural regeneration, increased women participation and increased focus on native species.
During the discussion, representatives of IUCN member organisations including Baanhn Beli, Shehri, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Thardeep, HANDS, Human Resource Development Network, Indus Earth Trust, AWAZ Foundation, WWF-Pakistan, shared their concern over the fires that have recently been reported from different parts of the country and demanded that local departments should be fully equipped to promptly deal with such incidents.
They were of the opinion that the increase in forest fires might be linked with climate change.
Earlier in his remarks, Dr Roomi Saeed Hayat, chairperson of the IUCN committee, appreciated organisational efforts towards the conservation of nature and natural resources.
IUCN country representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema and Fauzia Malik, programme coordinator IUCN Pakistan, also spoke.