Islamabad: Pakistan’s arid tribal areas have turned green, because forests have flourished since residents fled the areas in the wake of battles between the army and militants, a new study has observed.

An ecological study conducted in 2015, finds that the exodus of timber-plundering residents has allowed 95 percent increase in species richness such as Olea, Oak, Monotheca, Deodar and chilgoza (Pine nuts).
A case study: “Plant conservation and impact of war on terror on the vegetation” conducted by a seasoned ecologist Dr. Lal Badshah noticed remarkable 95% increase in species richness specifically in the areas from where families migrated to other parts of the country due to clashes between security forces and militants.
Before the mayhem in the area, the study says local populace used timber of forest for domestic as well as commercial purposes.
The study finds that families’ displacement has “left far-reaching positive impact on the country’s forest and vegetation in terms of species richness.”
When contacted Dr. Khalid Khan, an ecologist and professor at COMSATS University Islamabad, he told News Lens Pakistan: “Yes of course… Jungles tend to turn rich when there is no population to chop them off. Precious trees and other plants expose to nature when there are no human beings.”

Post-exodus snow covered rich Pirghar hills view in South Waziristan tribal region.
Post-exodus snow covered rich Pirghar hills view in South Waziristan tribal region.

In addition to population displacement, Khan said forests could be protected to allow locals of its sustainable harvesting only.
Before the launch of anti-militants offensives in 2009, Shah said that families were using timber of forests for domestic as well as commercial use.
The use of forest timber in a large scale left most of the jungles barren at a time when timber mafia used to cut trees for construction purposes, he noted.
However, Pakistani military action against Taliban that led to exodus left “good impact on the vegetation in the area,” the study found.
The region is largely viewed as a launching pad by terrorists from where they launched attacks inside Pakistan and targeted Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Migration of local families started soon after military first launched its anti-Taliban offensive in 2009.
Before displacement, the “total consumption of plant resources during 2005 to 2008 was around 83,619 metric tons while consumption rate dropped to zero from 2009 to 2014,” the study found.
Shah suggested the forest department should devise a comprehensive strategy after families’ repatriation to allow locals to carry out sustainable harvesting.
“Sustainable harvesting means that locals are strictly prohibited from cutting trees from roots, which will help forests stay for long,” he added.
Dr. Zaman Sher, another ecologist and professor at Government College University, Lahore, said that rich vegetation leaves positive impact on environment. “Green vegetation helps purification of environment,” Sher noted, adding that proper management is needed for sustainable use of the forests.
Noor Nawaz, a tribal elder whose family is just recently repatriated to tribal area, said: “Yes, jungles have turned extremely green amid good pasture but as families are coming back and they have already started chopping trees to use as firewood.”
But Shah said that the government should provide the returning families with gas and electricity facility as alternative of fuel to protect plants.
Muhammad Anwar, another tribesman, said that timber mafia has already started chopping trees and supplying them to down districts of the country for onward use in buildings.

Post exodus Quercus forest in South Waziristan tribal region.
Post exodus Quercus forest in South Waziristan tribal region.

Shah said that using forest timber as firewood doesn’t inflict great loss but its commercial use could leave entire forests of the region barren.
Badshah and other ecologists reported the vegetation and ethno botany of Pirghar hills in Waziristan. Many studies have been made on various parts of Pakistan such as Mansehra, Nara Desert, Chagharzai, Chakwal, Swat and Kotli Azad Kashmir.
The vegetation of South Waziristan has now lush green after five years conservation due to war on terror. In each of the stands, herbs, shrubs, and trees were randomly sampled using 1x 1m2, 2 x 4m2, and 2 x 10 m2 quadrates respectively.
In addition, on social front, the study finds that the turmoil elsewhere in tribal region and South Waziristan left educational institutions closed. Before the military operation and Talibanization in tribal area, one man was eking out livelihood while the rests of his brothers and family members do nothing in terms of earning.

It further states that displaced persons specifically from South Waziristan have now started working as taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and selling goods of daily use.

After displacement of local families the monthly earning of “one displaced family has now surged to 60,000 from 15,000 per month before displacement,” the study added.

The study says that plant resources have been conserved for five long years which is usually a standard duration for conservation of plant resources. The vegetation has enlarged to its maximum. The bonsai has turned into tree. Olea, Quercus and Monotheca have got a chance to regenerate.
Herbaceous flora has established on the bear zone and pasture has renewed to lush green carpet.
The study went on to state that it is therefore recommended to preserve plant resources for 5-7 years there by the natural flora may be recovered.
“As a nation, if we keep forests rich then it will help keep environment clean, control floods and protect soil erosion,” Shah concluded.

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