Still systematic deforestation in Sindh over the past 20 years has deprived the province of her massive forest cover, bringing it down to less than two per cent. More than 145,000 acres of forestland have been encroached upon by powerful tribal chieftains and land grabbers, while successive provincial administrations allotted another 64,500 acres to their blue-eyed boys. Ruthless harvesting is the key factor behind deforestation.
According to the UN and WHO standards, a country should have at least a 25pc forest cover for a better environment and sustainable livelihood. Sindh is woefully short.
The existing forests in Sindh are classified as riverine, irrigated plantations and mangrove forests. According to statistics released in October, 2017, Sindh’s riverine forests had declined to 0.05 million hectares (0.35pc), irrigated forests to 0.082 million hectares (0.14pc), and mangrove forests to 0.2 million hectares (1.41pc) by that month. The overall forest cover had fallen to 1.9pc.
We need action on a war footing in the short-term to increase forest cover by 25pc every year over the next five years. The medium-term strategy thereafter would be sustainable forest farming and enhancing forest cover by 10pc over the next decade. The long-term strategy should be to maintain Sindh’s forest at 25pc at all costs.
The measure by the Sindh government to reclaim its lost forests with the introduction of a new forest policy is a welcome step towards addressing growing global warming and local needs. The province has claimed 600,000 acres, all meant for forests, from encroachers in an operation stemming from the Supreme Court’s orders. In the coming days, 200,000 more acres will be added to forest areas. The total forest area in Sindh is 888,206 acres, and in the recent operation, 218,000 acres were retrieved from encroachers, while 382,000 acres are already with Sindh forests. Now, the proposed Sindh Sustainable Forest Management Policy is at the final stages of approval which will ensure forest cover there with the active collaboration of local communities. As per the salient features of the policy, local community’s participation in afforestation as well as protection of existing forest stock and future projects in kacha areas will bring about a green change.