Business Recorder: As Pakistan pleads its case at Geneva for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) funds, forest owners, government officials and experts on environment appeared hopeful to preserve forests. The REDD is about getting dollars for the carbon saved in forests by not cutting trees. The tons of carbon emitted from forests and agriculture in Pakistan is massive and for each ton saved the country can get an amount which may be $4-12 billion per annum.
The two-member delegation in Geneva, to plead the case for Pakistan with World Bank, comprised Inspector General of Forests Syed Nasir Mehmood and Director Biodiversity Programme Naeem Ashraf Raja. Javed Ali Khan, a lead author of Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) being presented and defended before technical advisory panel of the World Bank, told Business Recorder Saturday that Pakistan’s proposed document is strong enough to win the funding.
“We have fulfilled basic requirement for the funding and remain hopeful to win the facility to preserve our fast degrading forests,” he said. Khan said he along with his other colleagues discussed the funding proposal with the World Bank’s technical advisory panel over video conference last month for more than two hours. “The panel was satisfied with the commitment of Pakistan to preserve its forests and biodiversity,” he added.
Pakistan has forests on over 4.4 million hectares, 5.1 percent of the total area, while current rate of deforestation of natural forests is 27,000 hectares per year. The deforestation of forests in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world.
The country has responded to the call from the World Bank to admit new countries for funding, 27 are in the race while 11 made it to the final stage, including Pakistan. The funding is to be awarded to only three countries depending on how strongly each defends its case. Major criterion of approval is the quality of the RPP that a country can produce.
The World Bank has hired 68 consultants to review the RPPs and for Pakistan 7-11 experts were allocated to scrutinise the case independently while Britain and United States have undertaken another review directly to the World Bank. Dr Pervaiz Amir, a former member of Prime Minister’s task force on climate change and environmental expert, said that Pakistan’s economy has suffered a huge loss over the past decade due to terrorism and militancy.
“At the moment, Pakistan is not in a position to invest in forest preservation; therefore the funding from World Bank would be of great help to overcome growing deforestation,” he said. Amir said that Pakistan can also utilise the funding to improve the forest cover that remains the lowest in the world and encourage community based forestry across the country.
“Pakistan can also prevent erosion of its dams and natural disasters like floods by planting more trees if it gets the funding from the World Bank,” he added. Understanding importance and value of forestation, different organisations in Pakistan have already been struggling to preserve the forest cover by discouraging illegal logging and preventing rampant fires in the forests.
Navida Begum, a lady representative of forest owners in Murree, told Business Recorder on telephone that there is a need to create awareness amongst forest owners about importance of the forestry. “The government should provide alternate energy sources to people living around the forests to reduce felling of trees,” she said, adding that the government should also devise a cogent strategy to prevent fires in forests, especially in summers.
Pakistan’s government also remains committed not only to preserve its forests but also increase the forest cover to meet international standards. Pervaiz Rashid, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting said the government had devised a five-year plan to preserve and improve the forest cover. “The government has allocated $105 million in the budget to undertake REDD+ related projects,” he said.
The minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was also taking keen interest in preservation of the forests and that is why a huge sum was allocated in the budget for the purpose despite financial constraints. “A huge influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan after the US invasion contributed to deforestation because they build their settlements in forest-covered areas,” he said. The minister said the international community should help Pakistan preserve its forests because it would ultimately help improve environment of the whole world.
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