The Threatened Ancient Juniper Forest of Balochistan Pakistan
The fast-paced changes in the past decade have established unprecedented comforts for the human being however these abrupt changes come at great cost. An example is the soaring furniture industry that thrives at the expense of cutting large swaths of forested lands. One such forest is the Juniperus forest, which is among the most ancient forests of the Planet. These forests are distributed across the globe at high altitude region mostly above 2000 meters. The Ziarat region of Balochistan (Pakistan) is also a natural habitat for the Juniperus species which is approximately 5000 years old. Currently, under great threat of deforestation and forest degradation, these trees are cut for many purposes such as domestic burning, agriculture extension, construction, medicinal, and furniture.
Forests are a great terrestrial sink of carbon dioxide which in turns results in reducing the temperature of the globe thereby mitigating climate change. Trees also emit oxygen into the atmosphere thus providing us selfish humans with the means to breathe and live. The Juniperus forest of Balochistan has also been serving the environment and humanity for the said purpose over the past five millenniums. Nevertheless, these juniper trees of Ziarat are being cut drastically by the local people and mafias, unperturbed of consequences this might have for them. The inevitable self-centred thoughts of the man is but the main threat to their own being, who for worldly gains forget the responsibility that they have towards the environment. Despite its durable nature, the Juniperus forest are susceptible to the egocentric nature of the homo-sapien.
These forests are unlike any other tree species or forests which cannot thrive in harsh conditions. The Juniperus forest are very resilient and can survive in low temperature and drought-like conditions. Ziarat is an area that witnesses snowfall in winters and is a recreational spot for the people across Pakistan. The area is mostly above 2000-meter altitude and is famous for the residency of the founder of Pakistan ‘’Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’’. These harsh conditions and freezing temperature have compelled people to use the wood from the trees for keeping themselves warm. Although not completely at fault since he must keep himself and his children warm from the wrath of cold winds and snow. The indigenous people also use the berries from these trees for medicinal purposes. Since the area does not have enough facilities for employing the youth, many people turn to cut these trees for selling to earn a livelihood. The forests are also cleared for agriculture and construction activities, which are ultimately meant to serve human desires.
A recent study titled ‘’ Monitoring Carbon Stock and Land-Use Change in 5000-Year-Old Juniper Forest Stand of Ziarat, Balochistan, through a Synergistic Approach’’ carried out a study of the said forest. They found that the Juniperus trees of Ziarat Balochistan have decreased significantly during the period (1988-2018) thereby reducing from 71,005 hectares to 50,311 hectares. Along with the witnessed forest decrease, it estimates an incline in the agriculture area for the same period. This publication by academia also concluded that the carbon stock of the forest also reduced due to deforestation.
One never knows the worth of something unless he losses it. It is at no time too late to rectify one’s measures if he comes to know its pros and cons. Similarly, the people of the area should be made aware of the invisible benefits they are reaping from this forest. What is there that a person cannot do in the realm of this tangible world with the employment of his mind and stopping deforestation one of them. Strict actions must be taken by the authorities for the prevention of deforestation. The government should also provide the means of burning to the local populace such as gas and check electricity for keeping their families warm. Besides energy provision, the creation of employment opportunities and developing specific forest prevention policies may help in preserving these forests for the better good of both the present and future generation. It is of utmost importance that these jewel species be saved and sustained for the betterment of the environment and the human himself.
The expensive wood of this tree arouses the parsimonious nature of the man and thus is exploited. The authorities have failed in preventing the people from cutting this forest. It has been reported that the authorities are themselves involved in the trafficking of the trees. In a nutshell, if the current pace of deforestation continues, we may not be able to preserve the eradication of this rare ancient forest. We must think smart and act sustainable if we wish to save this tree species from its destruction.
To learn more about Carbon Stock and Land-Use Change in 5000-Year-Old Juniper Forest of Ziarat Balochistan, consult this paper https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/12/1/51/htm
University Putra Malaysia
NUST Islamabad Pakistan
About Dr Waseem Razzaq Khan
For almost ten years, I have been a student of Forestry. I began my research work in sub-tropical forests in my home country Pakistan. During my research in the Master degree of Forestry, I focused on medicinal plants in the area of Murree Hills and used the same area for my MS Environmental Sciences research work in deforestation and degradation under the umbrella of REDD+. My PhD project focused on mangroves and sediments which included studying key factors causing low mangrove productivity at Matang Forests in Peninsular Malaysia. With my research team, we developed case studies to use stable isotopes in the mangroves reserve and monitor their productivity decline. My long-term research goals specifically target four areas: highlighting key risk factors hampering mangrove productivity, assessing the efficiency of constructed peat/wetland in terms of carbon sequestration as compared to natural peatlands, collaborate with local communities for sustainable use of mangrove forests and study the effect of silviculture techniques in restoring and preserving peatlands and mangroves besides using the IOT & remote sensing in forest ecosystem monitoring of mangrove health and peatland ecosystem.