Monday, August 11, 2014

Pakistan's juniper forest sacrificed for fuel, fruit orchards

Aamir Saeed in Thomson Reuters Foundation: One of the world’s largest and most ancient juniper forests in southwestern Pakistan, already stressed by water shortages, faces a further threat as its trees are cut down for fuel and to clear land for orchards.

Some of the trees in the juniper forest in the picturesque Ziarat valley of Balochistan province are believed to be as much as 7,000 years old. The forest covers an area of around 280,000 hectares (700,000 acres), of which around a third belongs to the state.

Protecting forests is crucial to curbing extreme weather and other problems associated with climate change, as trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. But persuading local residents not to fell them is difficult due to the profits to be made from selling timber, and because many people lack other sources of energy to heat their homes and cook food.

“We know the forest is an asset and we really want to protect, it but unfortunately we don’t have any alternative to firewood,” said Muhammad Hashim, a resident of Baba Kharwari, a village 8 km (5 miles) from the town of Ziarat.

Hashim, 55, is the only breadwinner for the 15 members of his family. He owns a 5-acre tract of land in the juniper forest, and to make ends meethe sells the trees to a local “mafia” that trades timber illegally....

A snow-dusted road in the Ziarat valley. Maybe those are junipers on that bluff. Shot by Akashahmed007, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license 

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