Call for climate-suitable trees for twin cities

Expert says planning essential to combat climate change effectively

Zulfiqar Baig June 26, 2024


Pakistan, like many other countries, faces significant challenges due to climate change, but it lacks comprehensive planning to combat the issue, resulting in increased heat intensity in major cities, including the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

The recent heat waves have highlighted the importance of trees, therefore, the authorities must pay heed to the issue and plant more and more trees, according to experts.

Pakistan Forest Institute’s former director, Ashiq Ahmed Khan, emphasised that trees grown according to local conditions and the environment thrive quickly, replacing old trees effectively. He criticised the practice of planting palm trees in Islamabad, calling it a complete waste of money. "Millions of rupees are spent on planting exotic trees."

"If trees are not planted in green belts near highways, bridges, public parks, and roadsides in Islamabad, the temperature could rise above 50 degrees Celsius,” he said. Khan also urged private housing societies to create more green belts. This would not only improve the environment but also attract native birds back to the area.

Experts believe that despite substantial budgets allocated for afforestation in these cities, the positive outcomes are minimal. Exotic, non-native trees, which are not environmentally friendly, have replaced indigenous species, undermining the benefits of tree-planting efforts.

The trees planted in Islamabad in 1969 have reached the end of their lifespan, and no replacements have been planted except in VVIP areas, causing widespread concern among residents. To address these issues, it is crucial to plant climate-appropriate trees. In South Punjab, where the climate is dry, suitable trees include bairy, shreen, sohanjna, keekar, phalai, palm, wan, jand, and farash. The mango tree is also well-suited for this region.

In Central Punjab, which has more canal areas, trees like amaltas, sheesham, jamun, toot, sumbul, peepal, bakain, arjun, lasoor, kachnaar, phalai, kale, walnut, almond, deodar, and oak should be planted. Eucalyptus should only be planted in areas with poor soil to combat waterlogging and salinity, as it consumes 25 litres of water a day.

The best times to plant trees in Pakistan are February to March and August to September. When planting in schools, colleges, or parks, trees should be spaced 10 to 15 feet apart and away from walls if planted indoors. Planting should be done in the morning or evening to prevent drying out. Regular watering, weed removal, and appropriate fertilisation are essential for healthy growth.

In Islamabad, the Capital Development Authority needs to develop a comprehensive plan to address the increasing heat intensity caused by planting incompatible exotic trees. The French architect who designed Islamabad left ample space for trees along roads, streets, parks, and residential sectors to provide shade and mitigate heat.

A shift towards planting native species and comprehensive planning is essential to combat climate

change effectively and ensure a sustainable and cooler environment for future generations in Pakistan.


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