ISLAMABAD - Speakers at a consultation urged the people to use their vote for the change and reject such politicians/candidates who after coming into power strengthen the timber mafia in their area and damage the forests of the country.

Speakers said that this was the only way to snatch the power from such people as when they come to the parliament they support the timber mafia more effectively by using their powers.

The multi-stakeholders’ consultation was organized on Thursday by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) in connection with the International Day of Forests (IDF). Munir Ahmed, Director Devcom-Pakistan, conducted the consultation.

Speaking on the occasion, Munir Ahmed said that the environmental activists should mobilize the communities to get pledges from the expected candidates for the national and provincial assemblies that they would support the forest conservation efforts in their respective constituencies.

Munir said, “Our forests are decreasing at fast pace and multiplying the climate change impact. During the last two-decades over 2 per cent of the total forest cover has been removed mostly by the timber mafia and there is no one to stop them. Secondly the governments have totally failed to provide the communities living at the highlands with the alternate resources of energy, hence compelling the communities to tree-cutting and using it fuel-woods.”   

Nazar Hunzai told the participants that mainly the local elite is allegedly involved in the forest degradation, and the other reason is over-grazing and exploitation of natural resources by the communities due to the absence of alternate energy and livelihood options.

He said, “The Central Karakorum National Park (CKNP) is no exception. The over exploitation of natural resources from the park would turn it barren resulting severe shortage of potable water in the highlands and the downstream. It would affect extremely the agriculture of the country. There are numerous example like the CKNP on the northern mountains.”

Riffat Ara Baig, gender empowerment expert, said that being the forest resources essential in providing food and energy to all components of the mountain ecosystems, it appears very important to implement new strategies for protecting and improving the actual forests all over the country. There is a dire need, at the same time, to promote new management approaches taking into consideration both the needs of local communities and their traditions. Women should be taken into the task forces to promote and protect the social forestry, she added. Sibtain Raza, the President Islamabad Crescent Lions Club, said that the international charities are also promoting green practices. Every year, millions of saplings are planted but no one takes care of them afterwards, the school children should be involved in the social forestry and they should be given honours and grace marks for their contribution. Every person should plant a tree every year and take care of it until it grows up, he suggested.

Hira, a community worker in Chakwal, said that her organization had engaged women in the social forestry and it had delivered very impressive results. Some women planted saplings with the birth of their daughters adding one tree each year, it had provided ample money for the education and wedding of their daughters.