islamabad - Dr Shehzad Jahangir, deputy inspector general forests (DIGF) of climate change division, has said that deforestation is going on at a rapid ratio of 27,000 hectares per year across the country.

Expressing concern over the rapid deforestation, he said that Pakistan has a total forest cover including linear and artificial tree plantation was around 5.01 million hectares, and the current rate of deforestation is 27,000 hectares per year. He said that 53,000 Pakistanis are directly employed in the forestry sector, while the country has 213 million metric tonnes of carbon stocks in living forest biomass.

Jahangir further told APP that the timber mafias, clearing of the land for the developmental projects, and the burning of wood as a fuel could be the main reasons for deforestation across the country. He said, however, among three reasons, burning of wood as a fuel was the main reasons for deforestation. Jahangir further said that main drivers are the country’s growing population and the associated demand for wood, as well as weak governance and land encroachments.

Dr Shehzad Jahangir further said that people are chopping down the trees and using forestland for agriculture and orchards, even though the government tries to stop them. The government is serious and concerned about the rapid deforestation, however was making comprehensive policy to stop further degradation of the public private sector forests, he said.

“If there had been no threat to the people from the government officials, they would have denuded the whole forest land in six months,” he said.

Owing to the continuous cutting of banned species including pine, kail and deodar, forest cover in G-B has eroded more than 50 per cent over the last 20 years, Jahangir added. “Forest area in G-B has fallen to 295,000 from 640,000 hectares in the last 20 years due to callous cutting of trees and illegal transportation down-country,” Dr Jehangir added. “Permits for harvesting were subject to the approval of the G-B Forest Department and monitoring of the Forests inspector general,” Jehangir said, adding that the G-B forest department failed to fulfil its responsibility to stop illegal felling after the ban was lifted.