Forest cover change assessment in conflict-affected areas of northwest Pakistan: the case of swat and shangla districts
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This study examines the spatial and temporal forest cover changes in Swat and Shangla districts to understand the deforestation pattern in context of the recent security conflict in these districts. We used multi-resolution satellite images to assess the long term deforestation from 2001 to2009 and also to identify episodic forest cutting areas appeared during the conflict period of Oct. 2007–Oct. 2008. There are only 58 ha of deforestation identified during the conflict period while 1268 ha of gross annual deforestation were assessed during last eight years. Most of the deforestation patches persist around the administrative boundaries at sub-district levels (tehsils) which can be attributed to ambiguity in unclear jurisdiction between the forest official. The results highlight that the forest cutting appeared in Swat and Shangla during the conflict period is not as significant when compared with the long term deforestation pattern in the area. On the one side the results of the study are supportive to the picture that emerges from international studies which report high rate of deforestation in the country and on the other side it negates any relation between the security situation and the increasing deforestation in the north western Pakistan. The study concludes that deforestation assessments require verification by independent sources of data, such as satellite imagery to improve our understanding of deforestation processes.
KeywordsForest cover change Deforestation Conflict-affected area GIS Pakistan
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