LAHORE - A crucial agreement for mapping and monitoring forests of Murree Forests Division and to highlight encroachments on forest land was signed between Punjab Forest Department and World Wide Fund for NaturePakistan (WWFP). The ceremony took place at the Punjab Forest Secretariat which was headed by Babar Hassan Bharwana, secretary, forestry, wildlife, fisheries & tourism department, and Ali Hasan Habib, DG WWFPakistan, says a press release. As per agreement, mapping and monitoring of forests of Murree Forest Division will be conducted. Encroached pockets in the forest area will also be highlighted so that the natural resources of the area can be managed efficiently. Murree is facing high encroachment pressures and considering the alarming encroachment rate, Lahore High Court took suo moto notice. WWF-Pakistan became a party and helped the court by providing images and maps of the selective highly encroached forest sections. WWF-Pakistan in consultation with Punjab Forest Department, Revenue Department and Survey of Pakistan has already conducted a model study to the selective forest sections of MFD. The maps and results of the model study were presented to the LHC for reference and decision making. That study was also appreciated by Murree Steering Committee constituted by the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Indus for All Programme of WWF-Pakistan is providing funds to extend the effort to the Murree Forest Division. The recent degradation of forests in the country has been alarming. The floods of 2010 raised further concern about the depletion of this great natural resource. Since 2011 is also the international 'Year of the Forests, this agreement will add to the efforts being made by WWFPakistan and various government agencies to decrease the degradation of this precious natural resource. Bharwana said, We appreciate the support of WWFPakistan in providing their support for the mapping of forest extent and illegal encroachments in Murree Forest Division. He said that under the model study, the comparison of satellite images and other maps of different dates helped to identify the forest degradation areas and the identification of the areas where the forest boundary pillars have been removed by the land grabbers. This agreement will help to conduct the joint Geographic Information System studies of Murree Forest Division. He further said that the agreement for extending the model study to collect and maintain the forest record on scientific basis was an important step and would lead to better management and monitoring of forests, he added. The agreement signing also coincides with the World Biodiversity Day, which was celebrated on May 22. Pakistans forests hold a wealth of biodiversity, animals, insects and plants, and monitoring them will further benefit all species dependant on them, apart from human beings.