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Fighting Climate Change in Pakistan

Fighting Climate Change in Pakistan

By: Sarfraz Saroya

‘Plant for Pakistan’ and other possible avenues

While Pakistan is facing multifarious challenges like a sagging economy, depleting foreign exchange reserves and a skyrocketing trade deficit, there is another serious problem which will put Imran Khan’s cabinet in real trouble: climate change. When he unveiled his party’s 100-day plan for the country in May 2018, he showed concern on the seriousness of environmental crisis that Pakistan is facing due to emission of greenhouse gases by industrial and energy infrastructures. He pledged to plant 10 billion trees to tackle the effects of climate change in the same meeting. But is plantation enough to make a difference?

A green Pakistan is one of the many priorities of the current PTI-led government. In the past, when PTI was the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the provincial government had launched a “Billion Tree Tsunami”. This drive has been a huge success as per the findings of SUPARCO. Now that PTI holds a majority in the centre, the party and its leadership are determined to fight global warming and climate change. So, taking a leaf from its Billion Tree Tsunami in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PTI decided to upscale the model on the national level. During the very first cabinet meeting of 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 consultations with experts, the government announced an ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme for the next five years. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people, communities, organisations, business and industry, civil society and the government to collectively plant trees and increase forest cover with a special focus on planting the species that best suit the area and weather conditions. So, on Sep 02, Prime Minister Imran Khan planted a tree sapling in Haripur district and, thus, kicked off this countrywide campaign. Thousands of people responded to the nationwide campaign that went viral on social media, by coming out to plant trees all over Pakistan. The campaign was much needed because experts fear that Pakistan will be one of the worst affected countries by this phenomenon.

Should this plan come to fruition, it would be the largest environmental uplift project in the country’s history. Deforestation in Pakistan will worsen the impact of climate change and has already led to more severe flooding. Any attempt to reverse this trend should be welcomed by everyone; regardless of political ideology.

For the government, the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami should be seen as a starting point and not the final destination. Pakistan is expected to be hit worse than most other countries by climate change and so we have to adapt to the challenges of tomorrow. This means practicing water conservation and shifting power consumption to sustainable energy choices.

The government will have to be careful as it has launched its tree-planting campaign; simply planting new trees won’t be enough. These new trees will take years to mature and in that time, the tide of deforestation has to be stemmed by reining in the timber mafia. Commercial interests often collude with unscrupulous government officials to chop down trees on public lands. This should no longer be tolerated. The government also needs to work with experts to ensure that the trees it is planting are suitable for our climate and soil. Planting the wrong kind of trees, which require extra water, can often be worse than not planting any trees at all.

Read More: The Cure for Pakistan’s Climate Change Woes

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