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Planting 10 billion trees: go-getting goal

The government has set an ambitious target of planting 10 billion trees in the next five years. This is roughly 5.4 million trees a day. Large-scale plantations have been carried out by all the past governments though the latest operation seems unparallel. Unfortunately, these ambitious projects did not succeed.

‘Water-guzzling’ eucalyptus and conocarpus were introduced to local terrains in the ’60s and ’70s. These species only thrived in water-logged areas. In urban cities the conocarpus’ invasive roots damaged drains and pipelines. In some cases, these trees had to be cut down, after being planted, as they were lowering the water table. In an attempt to plant the highest number of trees in the shortest time, they were not set in place properly. In some instances, seeds were scattered carelessly. There has been a very low survival rate of such trees. Efforts were diverted to planting new trees; little attention was paid to existing trees and forests that continued to be cut down for timber and land.

The PTI’s ‘billion-tree tsunami’ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is currently under investigation by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for alleged embezzlement of funds. Pakistan is the seventh most vulnerable country to the risks of climate change. Prime Minister Imran Khan included ‘environment’ in his 11-point agenda shows sincerity. Prime Minister has launched ‘Plant for Pakistan’, an afforestation drive in the country, by planting a sapling in Haripur district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The Prime Minister said that their target is to plant 10 billion trees in five years of their tenure to make the country green. In their countrywide mission the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government will plant trees on government lands and by the roadsides wherever they find space for plantation in addition to planting trees in the forests. Forests were destroyed in Punjab and KPK and before PTI government timbers worth of Rs200 billion were chopped off illegally.

PTI government in KPK had planted 1.18 billion trees in the last five years of their tenure and now they have the target of 10 billion across the country. It is not only the responsibility of government or of an individual but it is the responsibility of every citizen to take part in the campaign and contribute to make this country green otherwise the land would convert into desert owing to melting glaciers.

The district administration of Peshawar along with other government departments planted 231,000 saplings in the provincial capital of KPK under ‘Green Peshawar’ campaign.

Climate change is one of the main issues that PM Imran’s government aims to tackle through initiatives like tree plantation. According to experts, Pakistan is facing enormous environmental challenges. A survey conducted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute ahead of the 2018 poll found that respondents prioritized three key environmental issues: rising temperatures, water shortages, and air pollution.

Pakistan is seventh on the list of the countries mostly likely to be affected by global warming and has one of the highest deforestation rates in Asia. Tree felling has reduced the country’s forests to less than 3 percent of its land area. About 40 percent of the remaining forests are in KPK.

Imran Khan hopes his reforestation drive will decrease the effects of global warming and natural disasters like floods that cause devastation in KPK and elsewhere in Pakistan every year. The Bonn Challenge, set up in 2011, calls for the restoration of 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

 

More than 20 countries have so far responded to the challenge, expressing an ambition to restore more than 60 million hectors by 2020 with more commitments expected. KPK’s reforestation campaign made it the only province or sub national entity to be included in the Bonn Challenge. This support makes the project one of the largest eco-investments ever made in Pakistan,” according to the IUCN.

It noted the newly planted trees are reinforcing riverbanks and add tree resources to agricultural lands engaged in farm forestry. They also improve biodiversity by restoring wildlife shelters and contribute to CO2 sequestration through new tree plantations.

PTI’s Imran Khan says the provincial government has enforced a complete ban on the cutting and felling of trees in reserved forests across KPK. Authorities have also curtailed activities of the powerful ‘timber mafia’ by dismantling hundreds of illegal sawmills and arresting timber cutters.

Punjab planted most trees during ‘Green Pakistan’ campaign. The government has claimed to have planted over 2 million indigenous trees throughout the country under the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme (GPP) which was launched earlier this year.

Launched on February 9 at the Prime Minister’s office, the Green Pakistan Programme aims to reinvigorate country’s ailing forestry sector through large-scale tree plantation, protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats for revival of overall biodiversity, which is in dire strait because of years’ of over-exploitation.

Of the trees planted from February to May, most of the trees were planted in Punjab, where 1.051 million trees were planted. It was followed by 409,300 trees which were planted in Sindh, 202,000 trees in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 232,400 trees in Balochistan, 130,500 in AJK, 86,330 trees in Gilgit-Baltistan and 87,000 trees in FATA. Moreover, 9.58 million tree saplings were grown in nurseries which were set up in various parts of the country under Green Pakistan Programme.

These 9.58 million plants will be planted across the country over the next few months, particularly in those areas which are vulnerable to floods, land erosion, landslides and where desertification is expanding.

Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries from climatic changes. Rising temperatures, severe draughts, flooding due to heavy rains and melting glaciers are some of the problems Pakistan is facing. Although the international standard for forest cover for a country is 12 percent, a World Bank study shows that Pakistan has only 3.3 percent of forest area.

Pakistan is a country with diverse physical features. Pakistan have highlands, mountains, plains, valleys, deserts and a long sea shore. Frankly speaking we must find out which plants and trees are the best to grow in the climate of our region and the best months of the year to plant them. Choosing wisely will save you from disappointment if the plants you sow wither away quickly.

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