Forests are first defence line against climate risks: Minister

Islamabad, August 12, 2015 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan on Wednesday said that forests are a first major defence line against negative impacts of climate change, particularly floods, droughts, groundwater depletion and sea intrusion. However, depriving earth of tree cover means exposing the planet and the life it harbours to irreversible damages.

“However, all efforts aim at tackling climate change and its negative impacts will definitely fail, if deforestation continues,” the minister warned during his key note address to the inaugural ceremony of the Monsoon Tree Plantation 2015 here at the Bani Gala Reserved Forests near Zoological Survey of Pakistan. All of us must understand that without trees/forests earth and the life on it is at risk of vanishing, he emphasized.

“Conserving and protecting the existing forests and increasing tree cover in the country is at the heart of all activities of my ministry. I would leave no stone unturned to increasing country’s tree cover from current less than five percent to 12 percent in next a few years. However, the long-term goal of our national forest policy, which is being finalized, is to increase tree cover up to 25 percent of the total land mass of the country,” Mushahidullah Khan explained.

He urged all governmental and non-governmental sectors to join ministry’s efforts to save country’s existing forests and boost the tree cover to make the planet sustainable for us and our coming generations. The minister told the participants that forests hold four major roles as far as coping with the vagaries of climate change is concerned besides holding potential to slow down and stabilise climate change, which has becoming increasingly erratic because of shrinking of forest cover globally.

One of the major role of the forests is to remove carbon dioxide from the air. If carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, it could severely alter the earth’s climate. Forests also provide a home for many plants and animals that can live nowhere else, he highlighted.

“The forests currently contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded. They react sensitively to a changing climate. When conserved and managed sustainably, the trees produce wood fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels; and finally.

And more importantly, they have the promising ability to absorb about one-tenth of climate-altering carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them – in principle in perpetuity,” Mushahidullah Khan told the participants while counting invaluable environmental, social and economic values of forests.

He said that forests help conserve and enrich the environment in several ways. For instance, by soaking up large amount of rainfall, forest soils prevent the rapid runoff of water that can cause erosion and flash flooding. Besides, rain is filtered as it passes through the soil and becomes ground water.

Almost all water ultimately feeds from forest rivers and lakes and from forest-derived water tables. The forest provides shelter for wildlife, recreation and aesthetic renewal for people, and irreplaceable supplies of oxygen and soil nutrients. Deforestation, particularly in the tropical rain forests, has become a major environmental concern, as it can destabilize the earth’s temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels.

During his welcome address, federal Climate Change Secretary, Arif Ahmed Khan, highlighted the role of corporate sector in environmental conservation. “The private sector in partnership with the government sector can play a vital role to find innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues and increasing tree cover in Pakistan,” Arif Ahmed Khan highlighted.

Inspector General of Forests at the Climate Change Ministry, Syed Mahmood Nasir, said that a plan has been chalked out to plant trees on 641 acres in the Bani Gala reserved forest area near Zoological Survey of Pakistan office.

“The ministry under the stewardship of the climate change minister has finally decided to establish a region’s largest Botanical Garden over the 641 acres, which would harbour a wide range of plant and wildlife species. The botanical garden play a role of discipline of research and development into plant taxonomy and genetics, photochemistry, useful properties, informing selection of plants that can withstand degraded and changing environments (especially important in face of the threats posed by climate change),” Mahmood Nasir told the participants.

He added that the botanical garden would be dedicated to the collection, cultivation and display of a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names. It would also contain specialist plant collections with special collections such as tropical plants, alpine plants, or other exotic plants. Botanic gardens have collectively accumulated centuries of resources and expertise that now means they play a key role in plant conservation, he highlighted.

Director Asim Imdad Ali of Pakistan Tobacco Company, Country Representative of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in Pakistan, Patrick Evan also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the importance of forests and assured of their all-out support to the climate change ministry’s efforts for boosting tree cover in the country.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Climate Change and Pakistan Tobacco Company was signed for establishing the botanical garden in Islamabad. Earlier, the minister inaugurated the monsoon tree plantation by plant a tree in the Bani Gala reserved forest area in Islamabad.

For more information, contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565