Awareness campaign launched in Punjab to boost forestry investment

In a bid to boost awareness of and interest in forestry investment in Punjab, a local forestry company has launched a new campaign in order to highlight the benefits and business opportunities available for potential investors in the sector.

The South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC) has started the campaign – which also aims to lower the level of deforestation in Punjab – alongside the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The pair arranged a seminar at the LCCI office in order to highlight the possibility of a strong, profitable and sustainable future for those investing in the sector.

LCCI president, Abdul Basit, said: “Forest-based investments can lead to tremendous growth and create opportunities that are essential for competing in an inter-connected world. The chamber will play its role in promoting this idea and advocates any policy solutions that drive economic growth, spur innovation and create jobs.”

As well as the welcome address from Mr Basit, the CEO from SPFC, Tahir Rasheed, outlined a proposal highlighting a number of investment opportunities in the forestry sector in South Punjab, as well as offering attendees a guide to Pakistan’s eco regions.

Pakistan has a total forested area of 1,472,000 hectares, according to a 2015 study compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and deforestation levels are high – 2.1 per cent on average between the years 1990 and 2015.

Mr Tahir confirmed that the SPFC wants to ensure new forest cover across 134,995 acres of land in Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur divisions, which falls under the Punjab Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department. “By promoting commercial forestry in the area, green jobs in rural areas will be created and logging pressure on existing forests will be reduced,” said Mr Tahir.

The other positive of forestry investment is the low-risk nature of it, coupled with the high returns that are possible, added Mr Tahir. “Sustainably farmed wood can be supplied to the national wood-based industry that will subsequently reduce dependence on imported wood, eventually reducing the budget deficit,” he said.

A ‘green revolution’ in the province as a result of the sustainable investment and planting was suggested by LCCI vice-president, Nasir Hameed, who added that he also believed the initiative would help to boost the overall gross domestic product.

The stimulation of private-sector investments along with the utilisation of public seed money to lower deforestation in Punjab are the main tenets behind the public-sector SPFC. It aims to merge forest conservation with sustainable economic development as well as boosting the investment in assets that can be both created and managed using an environmentally and ethically sustainable template.

The SPFC is working to reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2015 for ‘Life on Land’, which aims to manage forests sustainably as well as stamping out deforestation and restoring degraded lands.

GWD Forestry spokesman, James Barrett, said: “Any initiative that encourages sustainable land management and lower deforestation levels across Punjab is undoubtedly a positive. Working to meet goals outlined by the United Nations will ensure the initiative is kept on course and positive change can be achieved.”

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