KARACHI In Pakistan, forests cover around 4.2 million hectors of land, which is equivalent to 4.8 per cent of the total land area of the country. Whereas, the global average of forest cover is around 27 per cent for the developed countries and 26 per cent for the developing ones This was stated during a workshop organised by LEAD, held at the premises of Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) here on Monday. The workshop was the third among a series of four workshops aimed at presenting the current status with respect to inter-sectoral linkages before the concerned stakeholders and obtaining their perspectives with the view of finalising the report prepared on the subject. The workshop was informed that it is no wonder that Pakistan is termed as a country with low forest cover and suffers from a severe forest scarcity. The problem is further compounded by the fact that Pakistans forests are depleting at a very fast rate, for example between 1990 and 2005 the country lost 24.7 percent of its forest cover. The reasons behind this rapid deforestation are many, political (instability, wars, corruption, inappropriate law and structures, prices and movements), economy (land use and financial policies, economic growth, globalisation and infrastructure development), population pressures and traditional factors. To address deforestation and other issues around forestry, Pakistan has in the last 62 years made various forest policies. However, research has shown that implementation of forestry laws remains a serious issue of concern in Pakistan. Added to this dismal scenario is the fact that once a water-surplus country with the huge water-resources of the Indus River System; Pakistan is now a water-deficit country, the participants of workshop noted, adding, at present, the annual per capita water availability in Pakistan is about 1100 cubic meter, below 1,000 m, countries begin experiencing chronic water stress (Population Action International, 1993). With water scarcity a reality and becoming a mainstream political issue, water conservation measures are high on the development agenda. With a low forest cover and incessant deforestation, the watershed resource is being wasted and there is a need to streamline coordinated efforts between the forest and water sectors. The workshop also said that the highest political level recognizes the need for inter-sectoral integration; however, there is a need to assess if this recognition has been translated at the level of legislation, policy, planning and implementation. The workshop was well attended by participants from both the forest and water sector, who launched an interesting and information debate was launched on the subject. After detailed deliberation and discussion the workshop conceded that, there is a serious disconnect between forestry laws and water management policies. The participants were of the view that there is need for close interaction between forest and irrigation departments at the provincial level, and stressed that joint working groups of the concerned Ministries and departments be made to promote and strengthen inter-sectoral linkages. The need for undertaking comprehensive inventory and baseline development covering all components of forestry and water sectors in watershed areas was also highlighted. The representatives of the LEAD told the workshop that it is for the same purpose that LEAD Pakistan has, with the financial assistance of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, embarked on the venture of developing an actionable plan for promoting synergies, cross linkages and reciprocities between forestry and water sectors at the level of policy, legislation and operational management. As a first step in this direction, LEAD has developed a report that reviews national and provincial laws, rules, regulations and notifications of the forest and water sector and presents a critical gap-analysis with respect to inter-sectoral linkages. The organisation now aims at presenting this report before the relevant stakeholders in a series of four country wide consultations for further deliberation, with a view of seeking recommendations for building effective and integrated policies and legislative guidelines, as well as encouraging suggestions for amendments in relevant laws, rules and regulations of forestry and water sector. The fourth and final consultative workshop of the series is scheduled to be held in Islamabad in the third week of December 2010.