THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Pakistan goes ‘green gold’ for drastic change

PAKISTAN: The change is drastic: around the region of Heroshah, previously arid hills are now covered with forest as far as the horizon. In northwestern Pakistan, hundreds of millions of trees have been planted to fight deforestation.

Sunday 8 July 2018, 11:00AM


Officers of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forest department overlook a forest area in Swat valley in northwest Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Officers of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forest department overlook a forest area in Swat valley in northwest Pakistan. Photo: AFP

In 2015 and 2016 some 16,000 labourers planted more than 900,000 fast-growing eucalyptus trees at regular, geometric intervals in Heroshah – and the titanic task is just a fraction of the effort across the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Before it was completely burnt land. Now they have green gold in their hands,” commented forest manager Pervaiz Manan as he displayed pictures of the site previously, when only sparse blades of tall grass interrupted the monotonous landscape.

The new trees will reinvigorate the area’s scenic beauty, act as a control against erosion, help mitigate climate change, decrease the chances of floods and increase the chances of precipitation, says Manan, who oversaw the re-vegetation of Heroshah.

Residents also see them as an economic boost – which, officials hope, will deter them from cutting the new growth down to use as firewood in a region where electricity can be sparse.

“Now our hills are useful, our fields became useful,” says driver Ajbir Shah. “It is a huge benefit for us.”

Further north, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat, many of the high valleys were denuded by the Pakistani Taliban during their reign from 2006 to 2009.

Now they are covered in pine saplings. “You can’t walk without stepping on a seedling,” smiles Yusufa Khan, another forest department worker.

The Heroshah and Swat plantations are part of the “Billion Tree Tsunami”, a provincial government program that has seen a total of 300 million trees of 42 different species planted across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A further 150mn plants were given to landowners, while strict forest regeneration measures have allowed the regrowth of 730mn trees – roughly 1.2bn new trees in total, the program’s management says.

Kamran Hussain, a manager of the Pakistani branch of the World Wildlife Fund, who conducted an independent audit of the project, says their figures showed slightly less – but still above target at 1.06bn trees.

“We are 100% confident that the figure about the billion trees is correct,” he said, highlighting the transparency of the process. “Everything is online. Everyone has access to this information.”

The program has been praised by the head of the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a green NGO, which called it a “true conservation success story”.

Initially mocked for what critics said were unrealistic objectives, it is a welcome change to the situation elsewhere in the country.

Pakistani authorities say just 5.2% of the country is covered by forest, against the 12% recommended by the United Nations.

EPL Prediction Competition 2018-2019

Just one big tree remains in the poverty-stricken village of Garhi Bit in the southern province of Sindh, shading its small mosque.

It has stood there for a century, locals say.

“Before, there were big trees, many kinds of them,” says Dad Mohammad, a 43-year-old farmer.

“But they started to dry because of the lack of water, so we cut them,” he says, pointing to hundreds of metres of cultivated land where previously there stood a forest.

More than 60% of the forests lining Sindh’s riverbanks have disappeared in the last 60 years, mainly due to river depletion and massive logging during the 1980s, says Riaz Ahmed Wagan, of the provincial forest department.

“It is a disaster,” he says, adding that forestry remains the lowest priority on the agenda of the provincial governments.

The Billion Tree Tsunami, which cost the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government $169 million (B5.59 billion), started in November 2014. Officials say they are still implementing maintenance safeguards such as fire protection, with the project due to be completed in June 2020.

In early 2017, the federal government announced its own Green Pakistan Project, which aims to plant 100mn trees in five years across the country.

It ranges from “legislative reforms” to “wildlife protection”, according to its leader Ibrahim Khan, who works under the authority of the ministry for climate change. More than a quarter of the work was done by the end of April this year, he says.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is ruled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party headed by former cricketer Imran Khan, which is the main challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as the country heads into a general election next month.

Khan has vowed to make the environment an election issue, and to plant a total of 10bn trees across the country. “Every child in Pakistan should be aware of the environmental issue which, until now, has been a non-issue,” he said.

But it is yet to be seen whether his ambitions will translate into votes.

Pakistani environmental lawyer and activist Ahmad Rafay Allam says that in a country where the electorate is often swayed by infrastructure projects rather than the environment, he has doubts.

“It would be a first,” he said.

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket Police parade in show of New Year readiness

Highway Police? I fall of my chair! Since when has Phuket highway police? Anyone? And the general fo...(Read More)


Phuket Police parade in show of New Year readiness

OK, I'll ask the question... how does a parade show readiness? And if it does, just what are the...(Read More)


Army ‘asks’ Phuket operators to cease hiring illegal tour guides

So foreign guides would "exploit" tourists and Thai's wouldn't? It's time t...(Read More)


‘Distressed’ elephant photo spurs zoo probe

..."But they ( zoo keepers) insisted the animals were not suffering any health problem".. ...(Read More)


Army ‘asks’ Phuket operators to cease hiring illegal tour guides

I read again: " The Chinese market has also fallen - meaning that fewer illegal tourguides are ...(Read More)


Stalled start to Phuket’s ‘Seven Days of Danger’ New Year road-safety campaign

Why they announce with dry eyes and 'serious face' twice a year a 7 Days of Danger campaign?...(Read More)


Property owners to be targetted as fake goods raids hit Patong, Central

I wonder why the Patong police were not involved ......? ...(Read More)


Police apologise for Frenchman’s murder

Talk is cheap, let’s see a swift and severe prosecution and sentence. Seems little doubt over his ...(Read More)


Phuket tourist passenger van driver takes out motorbike on second day of work

Very good question regarding insurance. They complain that the tourists without insurance cause a fi...(Read More)