Pakistan’s first urban forest makes way in concrete jungle

Published: July 21, 2016
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Pakistan’s first urban forest spreads over 400 yards and is located in Clifton Block 5. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

Pakistan’s first urban forest spreads over 400 yards and is located in Clifton Block 5. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: With the massacre of greenery to accommodate big concrete structures, the government has turned a blind eye towards the decreasing number of trees in the city. One man has, however, embarked on a journey to make the city green by growing Pakistan’s first urban forest in Clifton Block 5, adjacent to Neher-e-Khayyam.

The project seems small but if six to seven parks in Karachi are converted into forests it would change the ecological landscape of the city, remarked entrepreneur Shahzad Qureshi.

“I aim to restore the native forests of the region and around three years from now there would be a self-sustaining 15 to 20 feet deep forest. It would be so dense that people won’t be able to step into it,” he added.

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Branching out

Qureshi was inspired to grow an urban forest when he saw a Ted-talk by an Indian eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma in August, last year.

Sharma’s company Afforest is a service provider for creating natural and native forests. “Our mission is to bring back our lost forests, we do it by creating them,” reads the description on the company’s website.

Sharma pratices Miyawaki methodology to plant forests which helps grow them ten times faster than usual. He has played an integral role in growing more than 100 small-scale forests in different parts of India, Singapore, Netherlands and USA at homes, schools and factories to improve air quality and increase biodiversity.

Qureshi then contacted Sharma and invited him to Pakistan to work on a collaborative pilot urban forest project in Karachi, as more than a 1,000 people lost their lives in the heat wave last year due to lack of greenery in the city. Sharma visited Pakistan in November last year and worked on the project with Qureshi.

“This small piece is just a pilot project to make us aware of the problems which can occur while growing a forest in Sindh,” said Sharma while speaking to The Express Tribune. “It’s beginning of the beginning of a bigger dream.”

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Plant a forest

The forest has about 1,280 plants, ranging from flower, fruits to canopy trees, informed Qureshi. There are around 45 species of trees that have been planted in an area of 400 yards, he added. The park in which the forest is located is over an acre in area.

The land on which the pilot project has been initiated on is government-owned, said Qureshi. He then contacted the horticulture department who gave him the permission to use certain patch of the abandoned area to grow the forest. The Sindh forest department helped me access a few native tress species from their own nurseries, he said.

The cost for the pilot project was quiet high however it can be reduced, he remarked, adding that he is financing the forest and its maintenance at his own expense.

Speaking about the importance of soil, he said powerful soil is better for the growth of the plants. We must put all our organic trash in the soil to strengthen it as it provides adequate energy to the soil and then to plant when it is decaying, he explained. “The organic trash provides life to plants and it helps attract insects, which are integral in creating a natural cycle.

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According to him, the sewerage water is also useful for plants contrary to what people might think. We have plenty of such water which we are draining into sea but it can be used for the plants, he added.

“It sometimes gives me goose bumps when I see the plants growing which I planted,” he said while speaking about his journey so far.

Acting now

Speaking about environmental degradation, Sharma remarked “The damage done to earth is repairable. We believe that our forest can be brought back, but only if we act now.”

Qureshi also encouraged the people to start taking ownership of the environment and play their part in improving it. We have plenty of parks and empty places around, people should take the initiative of planting as many trees as possible, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2016.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Human of Karachi
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:16PM

    I want to join him for this, may i get Mr Shahzad Qureshi’s contact? Recommend

  • Last Man Alive
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:51PM

    Corrupt sindhis have already turned Karachi into a lawless jungle of corruption and crimesRecommend

  • zeeshan
    Jul 21, 2016 - 1:46PM

    Supper… Great Job
    People should follow this…. Plants & Forest so important for healthy leaving, for our next generations…..Recommend

  • JP
    Jul 21, 2016 - 2:44PM

    Its superb job by the man. If every one plant atleast one tree in house, it would be great.
    As per above article i think its so small area rather a forest.
    A 400 Yard area is less than average house area in DHA Karachi (i.e 500 Yds minimum)
    Govt should focus on these issues and plant trees in empty/abundant areas of all Pakistan, But we prefer building Hotels/Restaurants/flats near natural landscapes of northern region of the country. SADRecommend

  • Hasnain
    Jul 21, 2016 - 3:52PM

    bravoRecommend

  • ibs
    Jul 21, 2016 - 7:20PM

    Excellent work! If everyone here & around the city takes it upon themself to plant & take care of at least one tree, we can make Karachi green!Recommend

  • Ali S
    Jul 21, 2016 - 7:43PM

    Karachi needs Changa Manga-sized forests, they can be planted on the city’s outskirts. It’s a concrete jungle with 20 million people and air that’s barely breathable, Mr Qureshi is doing a wonderful job. I hope that it is taken care of and guarded from the tree-cutting/billboard mafia in Karachi.

    There are so many parks and grounds in the city which are just barren dusty grounds or wasteful spaces of neatly manicured grass and wasteful exotic plants – they should be planted with lots of large shade-providing native trees (there are so many beautiful big tree species that grow and flower readily in Karachi). Every block should have at least one or two mini-forests.

    There should also be campaign to promote planting trees in house lawns and rooftops – there is a severe shortage of trees (and especially the right kind of trees, not conocarpus and eucalyptus) in Karachi. We need a lot more campaigns like this one.Recommend

  • Aviator
    Jul 21, 2016 - 10:18PM

    Great jobRecommend

  • radioactive
    Jul 22, 2016 - 12:31AM

    Numbers don’t mean squat unless you have someone who knows something about how to grow trees. If that picture represents the “urban forest” then you might as well get a compost pile growing because those trees would be considered “tight’ even in a professional nursery which expects to transplant them to “urban forest”. Recommend

  • Zee
    Jul 22, 2016 - 1:30AM

    Aside from the government negligence, the main problem related to absence of vegetation and greenery in Karachi is the extreme dry weather and very low water tables underground. Large scale forestation in such climatic conditions cannot be self sustained and would require humongous extra efforts, resources and above all money.Recommend

  • Maheen Ayaz.
    Jul 22, 2016 - 1:39AM

    Thank you so much Mr qureshi.i hope it becomes a trend here. Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jul 22, 2016 - 2:31AM

    Great job Mr. Qureshi. I hope others will join you. Every single story house should plant one fruit tree. Those living in apartments should grow tree next to the plot. Builders be asked to add plantation in front of the project to get no objection certificate from relevant authoritiesRecommend

  • Jul 22, 2016 - 2:41AM

    Can’t you people just let your city get develop? How can a green line bus and orange line bus reduce the greenery of Karachi ? This mentality is forcing others to become target killers in karachi and people like you are responsible for all this..and please let those indians live in their own country !Recommend

  • Awes Khan
    Jul 22, 2016 - 2:51AM

    This gives me so much happiness, I saw that TED Talk two years ago for the first time and the first thing that came to my mind was how can we replicate it in Karachi. Kudos to Mr. Qureshi for doing the ground work.

    Those of you, criticizing the ‘forest’ please watch the TED Talk first.Recommend

  • XoF
    Jul 22, 2016 - 7:27AM

    Allah bless these persons and give them happiness in life. A readers. Get up and please contribute. Laziness in our people is the main cause of lack of positive change in the country.Recommend

  • Jul 22, 2016 - 9:48AM

    Viva and bravo Mr. Shehzad Qureishi! My request to you is not to fall victim to temptations thrown at you by the qabza group.
    If we want fresh air, a pleasant temperature and freshness with a minimum of pollution, then we must have plenty of trees, shrubs, bushes and grass. I believe in a Far Eastern Muslim country it is criminal to break a twig, flower or uproot a tree.
    RasoolAllah (SM) after a certain battle in which the Muslims were victorious gave instructions to the Muslim soldiers NOT to destroy the agricultural fields and trees. Salams Recommend

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