December 11 has been designated as the International Day of Mountains, and Pakistan is a country where three of the world’s largest, and most spectacular mountain ranges meet; Himalayas, HinduKush and Karakoram.
Other than hosting some spectacular sceneries and being home to some of the world’s highest peaks and largest glaciers, mountains are homes to valuable forests resources and are water reserves and medicinal plants, bird and animal life and non-timber resources.
The theme for 2011 has been designated as Mountains and Forests, and Pakistani’s needs to pay special attention to this as their country is one of those where the forest cover is shrinking instead of increasing. The global recommended cover is 25% of the total area of the country, but we have a mere 4.2% and that too is being depleted.
Pakistan suffered greatly from the depleted forest cover in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially Swat when the mountains received more than average rainfall in 2010. Since the tree cover had fallen victim to the timber mafia, the hill torrents just raced and raged down the slopes, carrying soil and rocks and boulders which hit whatever that came in their way like a torpedo, unleashing unprecedented destruction. The 2010 floods were actually triggered by the removal of this first line of defense that had been removed.
Our mountains are home not only to flora and fauna, so many communities live there. These mountain communities are totally dependent on these mountains, and the natural resources contained within for their livelihoods. It is a very delicate ecosystem, and disturbance means large scale disruption.
Uncontrolled human activity, be it economic, including tourism, or military, has been posing a threat to this fragile ecosystem. Climate Change also has its role to play and the glaciers, which are the repository our water resources have been shrinking, threatening our water security.
To focus attention on the mountains, the UN has selected the theme as Mountains and Forests as 2011 had already been designated as the Year of Forests. In view of the climate change negotiations that have just ended in Durban, it is all the more important that mountain forests be protected, and their area increased so that they can play their role in Green economy and for mitigating the effects of climate change.