Pai Forest boosting flora and fauna

KARACHI - Pai Forest, reserved for hunting ground in the past, today helping flourish flora and fauna. Pai Forest consists of 4,777 acres, out of the total area only 1,502 hectares (78%) are under tree cover while remaining 319 hectares and 112 hectares are either blank or on high lying areas, respectively. Presently, 338 hectares of forests are covered with (17 %) are under Babul (Acacia nilotica), 107 hectares (6 %) under Eucalyptus, 1,045 hectares (54%) under Kandi (Prosopis cineraria) and 12 ha (0.6%) under Shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) crop. Thus a total of 457 (24% of the total area) is irrigated and maintained for plantation while remaining area (54 %) that is comprised of Kandi (Prosopis cineraria) trees does not receive irrigation water. Climate of this area is generally hot and arid. The soil of this area is mostly loamy in nature with varying proportions of clay and sand. Most of the area has high salt concentrations due to hyper aridity and scarcity of irrigation water. Due to construction of flood protection bund on the river, Pai forest has cut off from the riverine areas and became inland forest. Thus this inland forest is situated outside the river embankments. The Government of Sindh sanctioned irrigation water from Rohri canal for maintaining Pai forest. It is partly irrigated by canal water and partly by tube wells. Due to its ecological importance this plantation has been declared as a protected area (Game Reserve) by Sindh Wildlife department for conservation and sustainable management of wildlife and its habitat because it provides abode to different wildlife species. Important wildlife of the area includes Hog deer, Partridges, Asiatic jackals, Jungle cat, Porcupine, Wild boar, Snakes, etc. For this purpose Pai forest, was taken up for systematic conversion into irrigated plantation, under a development scheme titled Industrial Wood Plantation Phase-I. The major wildlife species in this game reserve include Hog deer, Partridges, Asiatic jackals, Jungle cat, Porcupine, Wild boar, Snakes, Desert hare, Rodents, Bats, Indian grey mongoose, Pangolin, Indian Bengal fox, etc. Whereas common birds include Green finch, Red vented bulbul, White cheeked bulbul, Pied chat, Pheasant tail crow, Grass tailed prinia, Turtle dove, Jungle babbler, Jungle sparrow, Crested lark and Finch lark. Agriculture is one of the major professions in the area. People grow wheat and fodder as winter season crops while cotton is the summer season crops. The local communities of the surrounding area belong to Chandio, Jamali, Keerio, Lakha, Bhumbro and Jalbani tribes. Their livelihood is agriculture and mainly depends on forest area for their wood requirements and livestock grazing. In recent past, all of the riverine forests namely Mehrabpur, Maribelo, Moriolakho, Jaryoketi, which were about 20000-25000 acres, lying outside the protection bund have been totally encroached by local peoples. Now the pressure of surrounding villages is entirely on Pai forest for fuel, timber, hunting and grazing. This small chunk of land is the only refuge for dwindling population of Hog deer and other fauna of the area. On the other hand the same forest is also sole source of firewood, timber and grazing land for surrounding communities. This situation has aggravated the pace of continuous degradation of forest and wildlife habitat. Keeping in view the ecological importance of this forest, WWF- Pakistan took up this site for conservation and rehabilitation on sustainable basis. Villages around Pai forest have a mix of ethnic groups including Sindhi Samat castes such as Channa, Keeria and Machhi; Baloch tribes such as Magsi, Leghari, Zardari, Jamali and Jalbani; and Punjabi / Seraiki casts such as Gudara, Sial, Bhutta, Arain and Gujjar. The main livelihood sources are agriculture, livestock, and government service. School education infrastructure is widespread but health facilities are sporadic. Water supply through hand pumps is available and so is electricity in most villages. The area also has local civil society organizations and advocacy groups, in addition to the CCBs. A recent socio-economic study undertaken by the Indus for All programme revealed that Marri Jalbani is the largest village, the residents of which are reportedly involved in wood cutting and selling. Provision of gas to this village and other nearby communities is likely to reduce the wood cutting intensity to a considerable extent. Livestock ownership in most villages coupled by herds brought by tribesmen from Upper Sindh also threatens the irrigated plantation in Pai forest area. On an overall basis, the main occupations of family members other than the household head, were fishing (36.4%), agricultural and wage labour (32%) and miscellaneous labour oriented services (23%). It is clear from these indicators that the human capital is quite low over here. Most of the people are engaged in primary production sectors of agriculture and fishing and in labour oriented occupation. Based on recent socio-economic assessment conducted by Indus for All Programme, on an overall basis, 48% of respondents agreed that irrigation water resources have depleted during the last five years. Over 64% respondents agreed that forest resources have sharply depleted during the last 5 years.