Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched the largest tree plantation drive in the history of Pakistan as the ruling party commemorates August 9 as ‘Tiger Force Day’.
In a tweet on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged people to participate in the nationwide plantation drive. He said he has asked MPs, chief ministers and the Tiger Force to join in the “biggest tree planting campaign in our history”. The set target is for 3.5 million trees on Sunday, said the premier, adding that he hoped the drive would exceed the set target.
I want everyone to join me tomorrow, 9 Aug, in planting trees all over Pak. Have asked my MPs, ministers, Chief Ministers and Tiger Force to participate in the biggest tree planting campaign in our history. The target is 35 lakh trees in a day though we will try to exceed it.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 8, 2020
The government continues to pursue its ambitious plan of planting over 10 billion trees across the country. The project is an up-scaled version of the project implemented by the PTI government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa between 2013 and 2018.
The government has also introduced a ‘green selfie’ feature in the Corona Tiger Relief Force (CRTF) application to allow volunteers to upload photos while participating in the nationwide plantation drive.
The application reportedly features a geo-tagging option as well enabling users to share their live location and the number of saplings planted.
Inviting citizens to participate in the drive, the premier had said that increasing Pakistan’s forest cover is essential to save the country from the imminent disaster of climate change.
“Plantation is not an option, but a necessity to save the country for future generations,” he said at the launch of the monsoon tree plantation campaign at Shakarparian, earlier this week.
The country’s youth must participate in the drive to avert the dangers posed by climate change, including high temperatures, glacial melting and desertification, the premier had said.
He also announced that August 18 would be marked as ‘Plant for Pakistan’ day, where citizens, government departments and the armed forces would plant trees as a gesture of caring for the country.
“Together, we will make effort to reverse the ills of climate change by persistently planting trees for the next four years,” the premier said.
Earlier, the World Bank expressed its interest to provide $188 million to fund the upcoming Ecosystem Restoration Initiative aims at implementing the ‘Ten Billion Tree Tsunami’ and ‘Recharge Pakistan’ programmes.
The $188 million fund will be placed under the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF), as it already has a framework and mechanism in place for quick and efficient disbursement of the money.
Officials adorn green thumbs for the day
The government machinery was active over the weekend garnering momentum for the plantation drive as it urged people to participate in the green initiative.
In a tweet on Sunday, Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Shibli Faraz invoked the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to encourage people to participate, stating that it is Sunnah to plant trees.
درخت لگانا خاتم النبیین صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم کی سنتِ مبارکہ ہے۔اس نیک کام میں شریک ہو کر وزیراعظم عمران خان کے شجر کاری منصوبے کو کامیاب بنائیں۔
— Senator Shibli Faraz (@shiblifaraz) August 9, 2020
Meanwhile, the premier’s Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar, who also heads the Tiger Force, also invited political leaders across the spectrum to join the plantation drive. He urged all to set aside political differences for the sake of national interest.
Climate Change Minister Zartaj Gul also chimed in on Twitter via a video message inviting youngsters to join the government’s efforts for the ’10 billion tree tsunami’ initiative.
Chairperson CPEC and SAPM General (retd) Asim Bajwa also urged the people to participate in the plantation drive for a “clean and green Pakistan”.
Separately, Advisor to Prime Minister Malik Amin Aslam announced that the premier would plant a sapling in Korang, Islamabad on Sunday evening.
Addressing a media conference in Islamabad, he said that all provinces, including Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad Capital Territory are participating in the plantation campaign.
Pakistan is the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change in the world and it is our responsibility to act now, he said.
Referring to a World Bank report on climate change, Aslam said that if action is not taken, six districts of Pakistan would be potentially inhabitable by 2050. These districts include Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpur Khas, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan.
Meanwhile, before Sunday noon, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had launched the campaign in his province by planting a tree sapling at the man-made forest at Shadman Market Park in Lahore, created using the Miyawaki method.
Speaking to the media, PTI’s Buzdar said that the incumbent government is committed to completing its target of planting 10 billion trees across the country by 2023.
پاکستان تحریک انصاف کے منشور کے مطابق ہم پنجاب بھر میں مسلسل شجرکاری جاری رکھے ہوئےہیں اور 5 سال میں 50 کروڑ پودے لگانے کا ہدف رکھا گیا ہے
— Usman Buzdar (@UsmanAKBuzdar) August 9, 2020
Plants are friends of the environment and tree plantation is the need of the hour, he added, referring to climate change.
The government is working to ensure a clean environment for future generations, in line with the premier’s vision, said Buzdar.
According to the chief minister, the provincial government has organised 520 ceremonies across Punjab to mark Tiger Force Day.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the campaign was launched by Federal Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri with the aim to plant a hundred thousand trees in the area. “The KP government aims to plant 2 million saplings across the province today, with over one million in Peshawar alone.”
Envoys, celebrities join in
Meanwhile, Chinese envoy Yao Jing also planted a tree at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on Sunday, joining in the nationwide tree plantation drive, according to the embassy’s Twitter account.
“In two years the Chinese Embassy is Pakistan has planted 500 trees in the compound,” tweeted the embassy account. “Green Embassy, Green Pakistan!” it added.
The Yemen Embassy also joined in, according to their official Twitter account.
Amb.M.Alashabi &Yemen Emb.staff ‘ve the pleasure to participate in Pakistan PM’s Tiger Force Day; country wide tree plantation plan.They planted 2 saplings in the Emb. front yard.Wishing to see a full green Pakistan,more developed& prosperous.Long live Yemen Pakistan relationship pic.twitter.com/fLRJJW79mX
— YemenEmbassy.Islamabad (@YemenembassyI) August 9, 2020
Separately, in an amusing upload on Twitter, singer Ali Aftab Saeed posted a video wishing his followers a ‘Happy Tiger Force Day’. Against a backdrop of lush greenery, he invited all Tiger Force volunteers to upload videos of them ‘roaring’.
Climate Change, tree plantation and Pakistan
Pakistan is among the most vulnerable countries in the world in the face of climate change. Over the previous decade, the country has already witnessed extreme weather conditions including floods, extraordinarily heavy monsoon rains and heatwaves – even as the country has contributed disproportionately less towards the emission of greenhouse gases, which is the largest human factor contributing towards climate change. Climate-induced migration has already begun in several areas of the country.
The Global Climate Risk Index 2020, issued by think tank Germanwatch, ranked Pakistan fifth on a list of countries most affected by planetary heating over the last two decades.
Several projects have been initiated to address the looming threat of climate change, and the PTI government has emphasised heavily on tree plantation as part of its countermeasures.
The 10 billion tree tsunami project is one such initiative. The ambitious five-year tree-planting programme, which Imran launched in 2018, aims to counter the rising temperatures, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather in the country that scientists link to climate change.
According to Germanwatch, Pakistan reported more than 150 extreme weather events between 1999 and 2018 – from floods to heatwaves – with total losses of $3.8 billion.
Environmentalists have long pushed reforestation as a way to help, saying forests help prevent flooding, stabilise rainfall, provide cool spaces, absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions and protect biodiversity.
According to green group WWF, Pakistan is a “forest poor” country where trees cover less than 6% of the total area.
Every year thousands of hectares of forest are destroyed, mainly as a result of unsustainable logging and clearing land for small-scale farming, the group said on its website.
With 7.5 billion rupees ($46 million) in funding, the 10 Billion Trees project aims to scale up the success of an earlier Billion Tree Tsunami in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the government has been planting trees since 2014.
*With additional input from Reuters