By: Shah Khalid Shah Jee
For Pakistan, climate change is a big issue as its experiences recurring heatwaves and droughts, riverine and flash floods, landslides, and sea storms in recent years. A recent study by the Germanwatch ‘Global Climate Risk Index 2021’ has placed Pakistan on the 8th position on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change in its annual report.
Apart from other reasons, rapid deforestation is one of the main reasons to it. Pakistan losses 27,00 hectares of natural forest area annually. The Pakistan government failed to overcome over rapid deforestation. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Pakistan deforestation rate is the second highest in Asia, after Afghanistan and is well below the recommended cover of 25pc.
However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s tribal districts people are countering deforestation and climate change through local tradition called ‘Nagha’.
Malik Mohammad Ayaz Alizai, 60-years-old, resident of BataiAlizo village in Bajaur District, explained how this tradition contributing in countering climate change in the militancy hit district. Under the Nagha, the elders of the village imposing ban on cutting trees and those who found violating the order, they faced heavy fine.
Alizai said that hundreds of years old tradition is still alive and people in the district. The elders and villagers unanimously imposed a complete ban on deforestation. They also announced that no one would be allowed to cut down a single tree without the permission of the elders. Malik Ayaz is unaware of climate change and its negative impact. But Mr Ayaz says rainfall has decreased over time, leading to an increase in drought.
The total area of Bajaur district is 1,290km, in which Bajaur Forest Department has planted forests on 470,000 acres. Similarly, there are 40,000 acres of mountains and natural forests.
There are natural forests in the Kemor Mountains of Bajaur, Arang, AlizoBatai, SalarzonBatwar, the upper areas of Mamond and the hilly areas of Charmang. In order to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in Bajaur, the forest department in Bajaur conducts tree planting every year in spring and monsoon in which the general public also participates.
Fine for violating Nagha
The villagers of the Malik Ayaz have formed a committee to counter shortage of firewood and ensure Nagha Implementation. The committee decides on request after proper investigation to whether allow or deny tree cutting. In last few years, he said, the drought has increased and the importance of forests has increased. Therefore, they has imposed complete ban on all kinds of felling of trees. Those found guilty of violating, Nagha, are facing fine of up to Rs30, 000, from committee side.
Due to strict ban and heavy fines, people are buying from timber markets. Haji Syed Bacha, another resident of Alizo Batai, who faces challenges in arranging firewood, proud on Nagha. The ‘Nagha’ tradition protects our forests and enhances the beauty of our area as well, he said.
Abdul Haleem, a resident of Katkot village in Mamond Tehsil, believes number of livestock decreased in their areas after deforestation. In the time of our forefathers, there were dense forests on the mountains which they used to protect. We inherited it from them but the new generation did not take care of it. The government need to pay attention to reforestation as this land is very suitable for plants. The re-establishing “Nagha” tradition will stop deforestation which deprives us of the blessings of forests, added he.
Malik Ayaz said alongside government efforts, people cooperation also required for protection of forests. The government cannot protect forests without the cooperation of the people. Apprising “Nagha” tradition, he said, whole country need to adopt this culture to ensure the protection of forests and enrich their area with the wealth of forests and make the area beautiful.
Ten Billion Trees Afforestation Programme
The last government (2013-18) had launched the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Programme, which was highly appreciated globally due to increasing green cover of the province. In 2019, the current federal government replicated the programme to plant 10 billion trees by 2023. The KP government will also launch Sheen Pekhawar trees plantation drive in provincial capital.