FAO in Pakistan

FAO alongside Balochistan Government to control Chilgoza Pine Forests fire in Koh-e-Suleman range


Islamabad/Balochistan (25 May, 2022): Chilgoza pine trees, green gold of district Sherani of Balochistan, have been turning into ashes and smoke after the fire erupted in the forests ten days ago. These forests are unique as they are home to rare wild animals, source of livelihood for 90 percent of local community and nurture the indigenous flora and fauna. In the context of climate change, unfortunate incidents like this, are getting more frequent and difficult to control.

Last year, the Sherani Chilgoza pine forests contributed PKR 3.5 billion to the livelihood of local community through the sale of Chilgoza nuts. Unfortunately, this year, unabated fire has snatched the main source of income of many people living in the area. According to the government estimates, 31 km2 of forests have been damaged/burnt.  

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) together with the Department of Forest of the government of Balochistan have been working tirelessly since the onset of the fire to save these high-value and unique forests. As soon as the fire was getting out of control, on May 20th the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was on the ground to provide technical advice and deliver tools and equipment to the forest department to support the control operations of the fire.  

After a rapid assessment of the ground situation, looking at the topography, wind direction and speed and meteorological forecast, Dr Faizul Bari, Senior Forest Officer in FAO Pakistan, suggested to the Balochistan forest department that the most feasible way was to use traditional methods, i.e. establishing fire lines in the direction of the spread of the fire, along with constructing diches to stop the spreading of fire to the lower forests. Dr Bari also called upon FAO International Expert in Forest Fire Management, Peter Moore from Australia, who confirmed Dr Bari’s assessment and recommendations.

Secretary Forest and Chairman PDMA, Balochistan met with Dr Bari in the field on May 22nd. A task force was established headed by the Secretary Forest, encompassing all the relevant departments of the Government of Balochistan. FAO was assigned the responsibility together with the Department of Forestry to lead the technical support.

The UN Resident Coordinator called a humanitarian meeting on Sunday May 22nd in order to share information with the partners and ensure full coordination of efforts to support the government in controlling the fire.  

After four days of intensive work from the government of Balochistan and the communities, and despite difficult meteorological conditions, the efforts to control the fire in the Sherani Chilgoza forest have paid off. The situation is under control. Now as the forest fire is almost over, the next immediate step is to carry out damage assessment and prepare restoration plan. This needs to be urgently done. FAO has already a lot of information about these Chilgoza forests since it has been implementing a GEF project for the past four years on the conservation of the Chilgoza forest and the introduction of nut processing to enhance the value of the nuts for the communities. This knowledge will greatly contribute to the next steps. FAO is at the disposal of the government of Balochistan and the UN system to play its part.

This forest fire in the Sherani forest is a warning of the vulnerability of high value forests in Pakistan. Efforts should be made to assess the risks of forest fire in the context of climate change, plan for mitigating these risks and strengthen Pakistan preparedness for response. The federal Ministry of Climate Change has already started to do that and the Economic Affairs Division together with the UN system organized a meeting with all development and humanitarian partners yesterday to rally support towards making the green gold of Pakistan save for the future generations.