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EDITORIAL: Trees take in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the polluted air and produce oxygen, and thus act as a weapon to fight the global warming and climate change. Being one of the worst victims of climate change Pakistan too wants to plant more trees, secure its diminishing forest cover and grow even the otherwise valueless Miyawaki plants.

The ’10 billion-tree tsunami’, proudly launched by the then prime minister, Imran Khan, last year, is also an endeavour to increase the forest cover, which at present is one of the lowest in the world. Against the global average of 31 percent only 5 percent (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, however, puts it at 2.2 percent) of its land is covered by forests. Of course timber mafia remains unbridled — thanks to local political support and the concerned government departments — lightning too ignites forest fires.

The latest entry to this anti-forest forces’ group are the TikTokers who would ignite fire to burn trees just to exhibit their peculiarities. Of course forest fires deplete quantity of oxygen, destroy flora and fauna, but how much detrimental these are to people for whom the forests are the only support for living we now know as the chilghoza (pine nuts) trees are. And we also now know that the fire-fighting capacity in the country is almost non-existent.

The forest fires that are devastating the pine forest in the Koh-e-Suleman mountain range straddling the border areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remain unquenched even after a week or so. These fires, which have taken their toll on pine-nut trees that are the only source of living for the residents of Sherani District and claimed lives of three persons, also proved that we as a country are ill-prepared to effectively fight and defeat the demons of forest fires.

Following the prime minister’s order to put out the pine-tree forest fire the local administration has now set up a control room in Zhob and emergency imposed in the district. Army and FC helicopters are taking part in the operation to control the fire. Iran is sending a mammoth air tanker to help Pakistan put out the fire.

The question is why in Pakistan where forests are under threat of extinction there is no standardised fire-fighting strategy.

The country needs better and more prompt mechanisms to respond to such eventualities. Moreover, the government should make up for the loss the chilghoza growers have suffered and at the same time put in place economic and industrial resources to end their total dependence on pine-nut forest. The government is also required to acquire latest fire safety equipment that are designed specifically to deal with different classes of fire.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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