The Juniper forests of Pakistan, located in the Balochistan province are an ecological and cultural trove for Pakistan. These rare centuries old forests are located in Ziarat and Zargoon areas of Balochistan. Junipers are one of the slowest growing trees in the world and are therefore often called “living fossils” Although they are also found in some other parts of Pakistan, Balochistan’s Junipers are one of the biggest blocks in the world.
Average age of the extremely slow growing juniper trees is 300 years. Juniper berries are used as flavor. Oil is also extracted from these trees which has a number of uses. Medical herbs like Epherda, Artimesia and mint etc are also produced. Fragrant lavender hushes cover almost the entire landscape from July to October. Besides these help provide fresh air in the environment and must see place for the tourists traveling to this part of the world.
Near Ziarat, are located the second largest Juniper forests in the world after the Junipers of California, some as old as 57000 years. The hills around Ziarat are covered with these trees, thickest on the north, south and east sides. The juniper tracts cover an area of approximately seven hundred thousand acres of which 2.30,000 acres are the State forest.
Studies also reveal that Zargoon is richer in plant diversity and in wildlife species than any area found anywhere in the Juniper ecosystem. WWF - Pakistan has already disseminated key information on Zargoon juniper forest and developed plans to continue its conservation efforts till these forests and other contiguous forest areas, such as Herboi of Kalat, are given adequate protection.
But all that is slowly changing. Where there was lush green density only a few decades ago, one can now see wasteland patches. Similarly one can also observe lesser number of smaller offshoots around the bigger trees.
A number of programmes have been initiated by the Pakistan Forest Institute, the Forest Department of Balochistan and the WWF to save Juniper Forests. The Forest Department is executing an extensive project under the Balochistan Natural Resource Management Project (BNRMP) while WWF Pakistan is working with the local communities to protect this natural heritage. The project is a part of WWF-Pakistan’s Environmental Education Programme. It focuses on conservation and environmental issues linked to poverty.
While we take pride in having these unique and one of the oldest surviving trees, we need to join hands in the efforts to save these from extinction.
Related Reading/Photographs: Juniper Forests (Pakistanpaedia)