During the very first cabinet meeting held by the new government, Prime Minister Imran Khan inquired when a tree plantation drive would take place since we are almost at the tail end of the monsoon season now. After all, the government has announced an ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme that will see trees planted nationwide, in all the four provincial capitals. The newly-appointed Federal Minister for Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, quickly took the lead and announced September 2nd to be the date of the government’s official “Plant for Pakistan” initiative’s launch. That Sunday morning thousands of people responded to the nationwide campaign that went viral on social media, by coming out to plant trees all over Pakistan.
“The target was to plant 1.5 million trees but they surpassed their target by planting 2.5 million trees in just one day. NGOs all over Pakistan helped as well and the youth were mobilised”, Malik Amin Aslam explained. Around 200 pickup points were set up across the country where saplings were distributed for free.
At the Parade Ground in Islamabad, hundreds of families and citizens gathered in the morning to plant trees. The Mayor, the Chief Commissioner Islamabad, the Deputy Mayor and children from various schools of Islamabad participated in the event. A total of 10,000 trees were planted in one day. “There is now heightened awareness and the youth have been sensitised and channelised,” says Malik Amin Aslam. “The hype will help to further the 10 billion tree afforestation programme promised by this government”. The “Plant For Pakistan” initiative will continue its next plantation drive in January 2019. All the provinces will be on board and targets will be assigned. Luckily the last government’s Green Pakistan Programme was already ongoing so it was not difficult for the new government to arrange the saplings in a relatively short time.
The Green Pakistan Programme is now a part of the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme and the arrangement is that 50 per cent of the funding will come from the federal government and 50 per cent from the provinces. It will be the provinces that will implement the programme on the model of the successful K-P Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation project. With climate change threatening Pakistan, the best solution really is to make the country as green as possible. As PM Imran Khan has also reiterated, “Global warming is a reality. We will be badly affected… We can counter it with trees. Growing trees is not a luxury — it is for our survival”. Pakistan currently has one of the lowest forest covers in the world due to heavy deforestation.
World Wildlife Fund Pakistan says the forest cover has been reduced to under three per cent of its land area. Planting trees can cool down cities and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. Trees also help to reduce soil erosion and lessen the intensity of heavy flooding.
The government is not just planning to plant trees, however, to counter the impacts of climate change. It is also thinking of pushing roof-top solar projects to start the shift to renewable energy and implement projects which deal with climate- triggered disasters. For example, the Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) project for the mountainous North of Pakistan that recently received funding from the international Green Climate Fund is now ready for implementation.
Under it, 40 monitoring station in Gilgit-Baltistan will provide early warning to mountain communities living in the shadow of melting glaciers. There is also a floodplain management project recently proposed by WWF-Pakistan that aims to restore wetlands along the major rivers, which could recharge aquifers and store flood water at a fraction of the cost involved in building dams. The project could also get funding from the Green Climate Fund. This government seems to be serious about tackling climate change and is keen to work with all departments to ensure that action is taken at the highest level.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2018.