The flood in Pakistan is unequivocally one of the worst environmental disasters in recent history. Have you asked yourself what, apart from global warming, could be one of the main reasons for the flood to have such a monstrous impact?
Digging deeper into the conundrum, I found a very interesting article about recent events in Pakistan that directly positively contribute to the severe damage of the flood. As we all know, there are bad and good people in every country, and yes, there is corruption worldwide as well. It is up to individual governments to curb the impact of those practices or at least to make them less obvious or responsible for a damaged environment. In Pakistan, however, the picture looks a little different.
As a recent article on UPI reads, according to Ali Habib, director general with the World Wide Fund for Nature, there is a direct link between deforestation in Pakistan and the massive floods sweeping the country. The reason is that if there had been trees, the intensity of the thrust of initial peaks of flood would have been a lot less severe. Flood waters now cover approximately one-fifth of the country.
The direct link between Pakistan’s “timber mafia” and the country’s deforestation is that the government regularly took bribes from the timber mafia in exchange for permits to fell trees. The outcome is that forests have been ”ruthlessly exploited” by law enforcement agencies, politicians and bureaucrats for their own vested interests, according to a Pakistani journalist. When torrential rains hit Pakistan, the force of the runoff from the country’s tree-barren mountains propelled the logs, turning them into instruments of destruction that smashed everything in their path, the journalist added.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that 80 million trees had been cut down in the so-called protected Khebrani and Rais Mureed Forest in the three years leading up to this summer’s floods. During that 36-month period, the forest had been reduced from nearly 20 square miles to barely 3 square miles.
“The government is promoting ‘Green Pakistan’ even as trees continue to be slaughtered across the country in the name of development. The timber mafia is denuding the country’s woodlands. The situation is desperate and is deteriorating by the day,” a Dawn editorial said. Pakistani government figures show that about 4.1 percent of the country’s land mass is forest. At the current 2 to 2.4 percent rate of deforestation, Pakistan’s forest cover would be reduced to half of its 1995 extent by 2019-24, says the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Tahir Qureshi, a Pakistan-based forestry expert for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said that in 1947, when Pakistan gained independence from Britain, riverine forests had lined the banks of the Indus River. “These forests used to absorb the ferocity of the flood waters,” he said. Qureshi said the riverine forests had been the first line of defense against floods that have deluged the plains annually for thousands of years. Naturally, as rainwater gets trapped in leaves, branches and roots, forests serve to slow the flow of floodwater. Deforested areas, on the contrary, become more prone to flooding and landslides.
It is likely that will be seeing similar events in many other countries in the near future. The message from Pakistan’s flood is clear: save your own country, save the environment, fight against deforestation and corruption and adopt a sustainable lifestyle – well, as much as you can!