Green Pak­istan

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

THE govern­ment has ap­proved the launch of "Green Pak­istan Pro­gramme" de­signed to plant 100 mil­lion trees dur­ing the next five years all over the coun­try along canals and road­sides as well as in the for­est ar­eas of KPK, Fata, Gil­git-Baltistan, Azad Kash­mir, Balochis­tan, Pun­jab and Sindh. The fed­eral govern­ment would pro­vide 50 per­cent of the fund­ing re­quire­ment, while the provinces will de­fray the rest of the cost. The pro­gramme has not come a day too soon. Pak­istan is one of the few coun­tries most af­fected by the neg­a­tive tra­jec­tory of cli­mate change. Ex­treme weather con­di­tions as man­i­fested by fre­quent floods and heat waves have played havoc with life and prop­erty in the length and breadth of the coun­try over the last few years.

En­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion in Pak­istan is a well-es­tab­lished phe­nom­e­non im­pact­ing the en­tire na­tional so­cial and eco­nomic land­scape. Our forests, wetlands and other nat­u­ral re­sources are get­ting in­creas­ingly de­stroyed by soil ero­sion, degra­da­tion of or­ganic mat­ter, wa­ter-log­ging, salin­ity and dis­ap­pear­ance of nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion. Wa­ter basins are re­ced­ing and wa­ter pol­lu­tion is on the rise. For­est cover is shrink­ing due to over-ex­ploita­tion of for­est re­sources. The lat­est es­ti­mates show that the to­tal area of forests in Pak­istan is 4.224 mil­lion hectares which is 4.8 per cent of the to­tal land area. Plant bio­di­ver­sity is un­der at­tack from pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion, un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion, de­for­esta­tion and over-ex­ploita­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources. Cli­mate change is hav­ing a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on Tharparkar which has faced 13 pe­ri­ods of se­vere drought dur­ing the last 20 years. Th­ese droughts have re­sulted in large scale de­struc­tion of wildlife and veg­e­ta­tive cover.

Rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and man-made in­ter­fer­ence in the nat­u­ral sys­tems are the chief rea­sons be­hind this prob­lem. The in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion, over­graz­ing and un­em­ploy­ment also cause de­for­esta­tion. Fewer forests de­crease the ra­tio of oxy­gen in the at­mos­phere, jeop­ar­diz­ing hu­man sur­vival. Al­though the govern­ment has set up a num­ber of min­istries and de­part­ments de­voted to en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion, there is no se­ri­ous at­tempt on the ground to con­serve ecol­ogy. Un­der the lat­est ini­tia­tive, the Min­istry of Cli­mate Change is to de­vise plans for the as­sess­ment of forests de­ple­tion us­ing mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, and also for both short- and long-term for­est re­source ex­pan­sion. The min­istries of Cli­mate Change and Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy will work to­gether, helped by the Pak­istan Space and Up­per At­mos­phere Re­search Com­mis­sion's imag­ing tech­nol­ogy, to mon­i­tor the forests for il­le­gal log­ging and degra­da­tion on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. The present ini­tia­tive will re­quire pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to de­vise new meth­ods to pre­serve and en­large forests.

An ex­am­ple has been set by KPK, where one-bil­lion-tree cam­paign is al­ready un­der way and the govern­ment has banned even rou­tine log­ging to pre­vent wan­ton de­struc­tion of forests by tim­ber mafias. But other provinces have not yet shown any se­ri­ous in­ter­est in plant­ing trees - the sin­gle most im­por­tant de­fence against en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion caused by green­house gas emis­sions. While plant­ing trees along roads is vi­tal to off­set car­bon emis­sions, the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned also need to adopt other mea­sures to re­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion. Un­til a few years ago, it was manda­tory for ve­hi­cles to an­nu­ally ob­tain road fit­ness cer­tifi­cates. Over time, this im­por­tant pro­vi­sion is no longer en­forced. For sus­tain­able man­age­ment of our nat­u­ral re­sources, it is ad­vis­able to dove­tail it with other, ex­ist­ing pro­grammes that seek to in­crease tree cover and pre­serve bio­di­ver­sity. For the ini­tia­tive to make a mean­ing­ful im­pact on the ecol­ogy of Pak­istan, it will need to be aligned with a broader set of pro­grammes and projects based on a com­pre­hen­sive study of the ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing prob­lems in this vi­tal sec­tor.

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