Deforestation in Pakistan explained using the issue attention cycle

Academic Paper, 2019

9 Pages, Grade: 16


Table of Contents

The pre problem stage

Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm

Realizing the costs of significant process

Gradual decline of public interest

The post problem stage


The forests are time and again professed as an important ecological resource and that they can be permanently depleted, and are non-renewable. Forest resources therefore need to be harnessed in a sustainable manner. There is a need for a legally binding ‘world forest convention’, just like existence of climate change treaties, to keep the issue of deforestation on the agenda, to ensure sustainable management of forest resources and to limit their overexploitation.

Deforestation is a true example of “Tragedy of Commons”. When one individual cuts or burns down a tree for his benefit, there is a higher probability that others will follow the same course of action to increase their individual benefit as well, without realizing that the collective negative externalities such as environmental pollution, along with extinction of biodiversity and global warming will be augmented (Hardin,1968). Furthermore, according to Ostrom et .al., (1999) “the difficulty of exclusion and sub-tractability of common pool resources (CPRs) creates potential CPR dilemmas in which people following their own short term interests produce outcomes that are not in anyone's long-term interest” (Page 279).Being a Common Pool Resource, forests are not owned by any particular person or even the government and therefore limiting its overexploitation becomes difficult. As a result, we face the CPR dilemmas in Pakistan in the form of continuous threat to forest resource by timber mafia, villagers who depend on fuel wood, forest fires, overpopulation and illegal logging etc.

According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization the forest cover of Pakistan has been reduced to fewer than two percent from previous four percent of the total land area which is among one of the lowest levels in this region as compared to the 12% standard set by United Nations (WWF, 2017). This highlights the vulnerable condition of forest reserves in the country and depicts the need to put focus in the area.

Downs, A. (1972) came up with the idea of Issue attention cycle, which sheds light on how an issue attains media and mass public attention and how it fades away with time with the entry of other issues in the cycle. The issue attention cycle has five stages, explained as below.

The pre problem stage

Having experienced the war ridden situation in 1960s and later the separation of East Pakistan (1971), the economic situation of the country was worse. Deforestation was not a major concern in Pakistan at that time. Though forest policies were made throughout the time after independence but still there was a severe lack of implementation of these policies. The deforestation rates in the country were really high at that time but no serious efforts were taken to resolve the issue.

Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm

The issue of tropical deforestation became a globally recognized problem at the end of 1980s, due to sharp decline of the world’s forests; this area attained focus of the world, but at the same time became a politically controversial issue at the Rio Conference (1992). An attempt was made by the G7 countries to bring a ‘Global forest convention’ in the conference. Yet, these proposals faced a sturdy resistance by the member countries. For the industrialized world, forests were a legacy and responsibility and the developing considered a sovereign right to natural reserves within their national boundaries and demanded compensation for protecting the forest reserves. The Rio conference and the debate surrounding a forest treaty created suspicion and issue became polarized. It ended up being difficult to arrange a convention relating to forests due to this sharp North\South divide. But the issue came on the world agenda, and everyone was alarmed by its devastating effects. (Report from the Secretariat for International Forestry Issues, SIFI, 2010)

Pakistan is signatory to and has ratified the “Convention on biological diversity (CBD)”, “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)”, and “United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought Particularly in Africa (UNCCD)” which creates an external pressure and a higher responsibility to tackle the issue of deforestation, as country is accountable under these international obligations. (MOFA, 2015)

As the forest cover in Pakistan declined over the years, and many of the forest policies were made to tackle the issue but most failed in implementation, the attention in this area increased as the country faced numerous problems like extreme flooding, rising temperatures and biodiversity loss and the root cause was deforestation. Imran Khan took notice of the issue when he came to power and realized the importance of the forests to counter the effects of climate change; his KP government started a massive afforestation campaign back in 2015. The campaign called the “Billion Tree Tsunami” at the same time aided the KPK province in fulfilling its commitment of 348,400 hectare to a universal attempt in bringing 150 million hectares deforested land in restitution by the year 2020 in addition to the 350 million hectares by the year 2030, this global effort is known as the Bonn Challenge. It has been marked as the first Bonn Challenge undertaking that will accomplish its reinstatement target. (IUCN, 2017)

Realizing the costs of significant process

Forest policies in Pakistan were never really implemented keeping into consideration the costs associated. 1973 Constitution of Pakistan makes forestry a provincial subject. Despite of that, Federal or National level forest policies are made, which are bound to be followed by the provinces. This creates the issue of duplication of policies which creates implementation problems.

The tension between provinces and center was apparent. The provinces couldn’t follow the federal policies and federal government had concerns for that, these jurisdictional issues encompassing the forests are keeping Pakistan away from conveying on its global duties. (National forest policy, 2015)

Gradual decline of public interest

The mass public in our country remained concerned about different issues in different time periods. When government and the media didn’t give due attention to the issue of deforestation, and lack of implementation of forest policies occurred, the public attention started diverting from the issue of deforestation to other issues. Also a large number of people living in the rural areas of the country depend on forest wood for fuel and most of them are unaware of the consequences of overexploitation of this natural resource, due to their lack of education.

When Imran khan’s KP government in 2014 took the Billion Tree Tsunami initiative, civil society and public were also invited to join hands with the government. Also this project created around half a million jobs for the people who were mostly unemployed including women. About 16,000 laborers took part in the gigantic task of planting 900,000 Eucalyptus saplings in different parts of the province. The public took increased attention ad interest in the project as it provided them with jobs and made the province green. But as time passed and the project started reaching its target, public attention started to decline and got diverted towards the other daily life issues. The public is more concerned about the issues like unemployment, inflation, and other regional issues, which are more sensationalized by the media a now a days.


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Deforestation in Pakistan explained using the issue attention cycle
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deforestation, pakistan
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Hifza Syed (Author), 2019, Deforestation in Pakistan explained using the issue attention cycle, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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