Asghar Khan, Member (Eco Club Pakistan)

Forests play a critical role in the provision of the ecological interconnectedness, and essential ecosystem services. According to a 2019 report by the Ministry of Climate Change and Capital-Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad, Pakistan has a forest cover of around 5.2% of its geographical region. Due to climate change and increased human economic activity, forest fires in Pakistan in recent years have become a major environmental disaster that has burned large quantities of natural resources, destroyed the soil and caused air pollution. Also, deforestation is a serious environmental problem throughout the world including Pakistan where a striking depletion of forest reserves has been an ecological concern for quite some time.

Forest fires appear unavoidable in the natural world, and they play a vital role in the regeneration of flora and the change of ecosystems. However, unregulated forest fires may have detrimental environmental and local impacts. This is because these fires not only property and harm human life but also endanger ecosystem permanency. There has been a growing increase in the amount and intensity of forest fires across the world over the last decade. This phenomenon raises public concern about the environmental and socio-economic impacts of forest fires.

Forest fire at Margalla Hills Islamabad

Each year, Margalla Hills experience fire incidents mainly in the Chir pine forest due to their dry litter over the field having resin in it and is often named as hot wood. Incidents of fire arise because of the primary causes, normal and anthropogenic behavior. Rock weathering, lightening and hot environment are the normal means of forest fire rising and spreading in the area, while human presence and disturbance in the woodland region and cause of woodland vegetation burning falls in second place based on reports of fire incidents. In addition to the altering human activities in land use, prolonged dry weather with unusually high temperature raises the number of fires across a significant part of Islamabad. Because of the major effect of forest fires have on habitats and forest fire prevention, socio- economic conditions, and suppression have become a shared concern of researchers and governments around the world.

Biodiversity of Margalla Hills

Margalla Range covers an area of 203 square kilometers, located in the north of Islamabad between 33°40'01" to 33°42'43" N latitude, 72°45'01" to 72°52'32"E longitude. The topography of the area is rocky and furrowed, varying in elevation, where the structure of the rock is basically limestone. The area falls in the far end of monsoon zone and the mean monthly monsoon precipitation (254 mm) occurs in July and August. The recorded average relative humidity varies between 59 and 67%. The hottest months are May and June as the temperature rises up to 42°C and the coldest months are December and January when temperature falls below zero. Margalla national park is rich in 616 diverse species of flora. The vegetation is subtropical deciduous scrub forests and subtropical evergreen coniferous pine forests. The Park inhabits 238 bird species, 30 mammal species, 21 amphibians and reptiles’ species, 27 fish species and 39 butterflies and numerous other invertebrate species. Margalla national park populates 92,000-100,000 people living in 37 small hamlets and villages. More than half of the population (about 60%) living in the park area are practicing agriculture, animal production and marketing.

Forest fire and climate change

Climate change has been a key factor in increasing the risk and extent of forest fire. Forest fire risk depends on a number of factors, including temperature, soil moisture, and the presence of trees, shrubs, and other potential fuel. All these factors have strong direct or indirect ties to climate variability and climate change. Climate change enhances the drying of organic matter in forests (the material that burns and spreads forest fire) and has doubled the number of large fires between 1984 and 20121 in around the world. Research shows that changes in climate create warmer, drier conditions. Increased drought, and a longer fire season are boosting these increases in forest fire risk.

For much of the World projections shows that an average annual 1 degree C temperature increase would increase the median burned area per year as much as 600 percent in some types of forests. It has been found that various modeling suggests increased fire risk and a longer fire season, with at least a 30 percent increase from 2011 in the world burned by lightning-ignited forest fire by 2060. Once a fire starts—more than 80 percent of Pakistan forest fires are caused by people, warmer temperatures and drier conditions can help fires spread and make them harder to put out. Warmer, drier conditions also contribute to the spread of the mountain pine beetle and other insects that can weaken or kill trees, building up the fuels in a forest. Land use and forest management also affect forest fire risk. Changes in climate add to these factors and are expected to continue to increase the area affected by forest fire in Pakistan.


Make the ‘fire funding fix’ count.

Having to spend more to put out wildfires, the Forest Service has had less money for wildfire prevention.

Boost research to surface best options.

Research could study the best ways to predict high-risk areas for wildfire and to better understand how climate change is shifting how wildfires behave. And it could lead to safeguards, such as alert systems that warn communities of encroaching fire.

Turn forest byproduct into new revenue.

Reducing the risk of fire often involves removing vegetation that can fuel fires. Those tree parts and plants can be turned into a renewable energy source and various products, such as paper and furniture. Responsibly removing dead trees for sale could lead to millions of dollars in vital funding for restoration efforts, such as planting trees.

Build on bedrock environmental laws.

Bedrock policies like the Endangered Species Act provide critical backstops for ecosystems at risk, including forests. With climate change on track to make wildfires worse, the need is greater than ever for more funding and flexibility to address urgent needs quickly and effectively.