Published On: Fri, Oct 2nd, 2015

Forest dieback or deforestation: Indigenous trees face extinction in Thar

Infographic English

Shahbaz Ali
Mithi, Tharparkar: Although recent rains in Tharparkar have given new life to the existing foliage, over the years the region has seen a gradual decrease in the number of indigenous trees.
The types of trees usually found in Tharparkar include Peelo, Neem, Rohiro, Keekar and Kundi. Similarly, Aak, Khap and Boh plants were once abundant in the region, which served as fodder for cattle, food for humans and nests for birds.

Over the years the region has seen a gradual decrease in the number of indigenous trees.

Over the years the region has seen a gradual decrease in the number of indigenous trees.

As per estimates, there are about 1.5 million goats in Tharparkar area. During droughts, the only food source for goats is Kundi. The leaves of Kundi are used as feed for the goats, whereas its fruit called ‘seengri’ is used as a vegetable. During summers, it is a like a ‘fresh vegetable gift’ for the locals. Similarly, fruit from ‘Peelu’ is also eaten by the habitants of the desert.
Interestingly, indigenous trees are also used to know directions besides shelter for humans and animals alike in scorching heat. These trees in bygone days were the reasons behind fertility of Thar region.

According to Nadeem Mirbahar, an official of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a decrease in rainfall due to climate change has decreased groundwater levels, thus the decrease in vegetation.

“In deserts, trees are deep-rooted, which get their water from the ground,” he says. “However in Tharparkar, tree roots are drying up because of water scarcity.”

Decrease in rainfall due to climate change has decreased groundwater levels, thus the decrease in vegetation--Nadeem Mirbahar, an official of the IUCN

Decrease in rainfall due to climate change has decreased groundwater levels, thus the decrease in vegetation–Nadeem Mirbahar, an official of the IUCN

But lack of rainfall is not the only reason for a decrease in the number of trees in the region.
Here, the sole source of fuel for the people is woodpile. Trees are cut, and the wood is used for household cooking, as well as for construction of makeshift huts.
District and Session Court Mithi has imposed a ban on cutting of indigenous trees but to no avail.
“If cutting of trees continues, there would be no rains in the area,” says Lovjee, a resident of Ratay Ji Dhaani village of Nangarparkar. “Gugral is very much connected to our lives.”
Roads constructed to link Thar coal mines to other parts of Sindh also led to the cutting of hundreds of trees. Construction companies cut the trees to pave the way whereas no tree plantation drive was launched to compensate the loss. Woodpile was also used as fuel to burn bitumen, a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation, for road surfacing and roofing.

Non-governmental organisations are striving hard to protect the region’s indigenous trees.
According to one of the volunteers of The Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment in Thar Bharu Mal, Kundi, a local tree variety, is the custodian of humans, animals and birds. But nowadays it is being cut on large scale, and not being planted again.
Meanwhile, Obhayo Bajeer, a resident of Mithi, says indigenous trees are being replaced with non-native shrubs, which have drawbacks.
“In the presence of this specie, no other specie could be grown,” he says.

This story has been published in arrangement with NCEJ as part of its training in Tharpakar on “Reporting Impacts of climate change on communities”

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