FOREST cover is deficient in Pakistan. It has 4.5 per cent cover of the total land area, while to boost economic development a country needs at least 25 per cent of its total size.
Most of the forest cover is found in Kashmir, KP and the Himalayan mountain ranges, but a major part of the Karakorum and Hindukush mountains in Gigit-Baltistan are barren due to high elevation and lack of rainfall in the monsoon season.
Gilgit-Baltistan experiences extreme cold during winter which usually gets prolonged for three to four months, starting from December and ending in March.
During these months, people have no other option but to cut trees to meet their requirements. Flowering plants are also chopped down for heating purposes in winter. This action curtails a source of income as well. The pine forest cover is also on the decline due to construction work and smuggling from one region to another.
Dire steps need to be taken to reduce illegal deforestation and to accelerate the process of forestation across the country, including Gilgit-Baltistan. The authorities concerned must monitor this precious resource by deputing employees in certain valleys. Those violating the law should be punished.
Plantation campaigns should be launched under the supervision of the forest department, and a plantation day should be mandatory in all government departments.
Schools, colleges and universities should emphasise observing this particular day twice a year.
Karim Mohammad Khan
Pakora village, Ishkoman