Lack of adequate electricity and supplies of natural gas in the rural areas of Pakistan has resulted in the exploitation of fuel wood at an unsustainable rate, leading to devastating rates of deforestation. Combined with overgrazing, soil erosion, increasing salinity in the water and non-sustainable agricultural practices, Pakistan is facing major threats to its biodiversity.
Only 5.7% of the total land area of Pakistan is covered with forests, but the rate of depletion of the forest cover that’s left continues to be high. Commercial logging and overexploitation of forests by a growing population for fuel, fodder, building materials, resin and charcoal has resulted in crippling forest ecosystems. The disappearance of trees and shrub means that the associated flora and fauna, dependent on the forest, are also lost. Species that thrive in the ecological niches created by thick tree-cover – animals such as squirrels, woodpeckers and snails, and plants including numerous fern and mushroom varieties – are also likely to become extinct once those protective and nutrient rich surroundings are degraded. The impacts of deforestation can already be seen in Baluchistan’s juniper forests, and in the Indus River Basin mangrove forests.
Other threats include hunting, overgrazing, soil erosion, salinity and water logging and non-sustainable agricultural practices.
"We must reduce direct pressure on biodiversity and promote sustainable use," said a representative of Pakistan's Ministry of Climate Change. Biodiversity loss is happening at a very fast pace and all the provincial forest and wildlife departments must come together to fix it.
He said that climate change and its effects are attracting the attention of both policymakers and the media, and that the loss of biodiversity is also being discussed, but added that resources are required to carry out the work at the local level and strengthen local awareness.
Qamar Naseem, a civil society activist working on environment, climate change and biodiversity, says what is needed now is to empower local communities (both urban and rural) to deal with climate change and biodiversity.
He added that the government should prioritize biodiversity conservation policies to raise awareness among citizens and educate local people, especially women, about biodiversity.
Abu Bakr, who is from Pakistan but was representing the Nordic Council of Ministers at the Biodiversity Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, said that it was a pity no delegates from Pakistan participated. He added that if the youth in Pakistan are given an opportunity, they can play an important role in protecting biodiversity.
This story was produced as part of a reporting fellowship to the 2022 UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, led by Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published in Urdu on enews.com on June 25, 2022. It has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.