Shirani forest fire rips out livelihoods of local community (FAO – Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD: The relentless fire that has turned the chilgoza pines – the green gold of Balochistan’s Shirani district – to ash and smoke, has snatched the livelihoods of the local community, which has earned 3.5 billion rupees thanks to the sale of chilgoza nuts last year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has been implementing a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project for four years on the conservation of chilgoza forests and the introduction of processing nuts to improve the value of nuts for communities, says that this year the fire has snatched away the main source of income for many people living in the area.

According to government estimates, 31 kilometers of forest have been damaged and burned.

Locals earned 3.5 billion rupees from the sale of chilgoza nuts last year

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and Provincial Forestry Department have worked tirelessly since the fire began to save these unique and valuable forests. As soon as the fire got out of control, FAO went on site to provide technical advice and to send tools and equipment to the forest service to support the operations launched to put out the fire.

After a quick assessment of the situation on the ground, looking at topography, wind direction and speed, and weather forecasts, FAO Forestry Officer Dr. Faizul Bari asked the provincial government that the most practical way was to use traditional methods by establishing fire lines in the direction of the fire spread, as well as building ditches to prevent the fire from spreading to lower forests.

These forests are unique because they are home to rare wildlife, a source of livelihood for 90% of the local community and nurture native flora and fauna, according to the FAO.

Now that the wildfire is almost over, the next immediate step is to carry out a damage assessment and prepare a restoration plan, and this must be done urgently. The FAO says it is at the disposal of the government of Balochistan and the UN system to play its role.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Islamabad held a humanitarian meeting earlier this week to share information with partners.

The Ministry of Climate Change has already started the assessment exercise.

Posted in Dawn, May 28, 2022