On September 2, 2018, thousands of people came out to plant trees not just in Islamabad, but all over Pakistan. The target was to plant 1.5 million trees but they surpassed their target by planting 2.5 million trees according to the Advisor to the Prime Minister, Malik Amin Aslam. “The idea was to catch the tail end of the monsoon and we used social media to give it a push. NGOs all over Pakistan helped as well and the youth (including young girls) were mobilized. There is now a heightened awareness and the youth have been sensitized, mobilized and channelized. The hype will help to further plant 10 billion trees, as promised by the current government.” he explained further.
Around 200 pick-up points were set up across the country, including Islamabad, where saplings were distributed for free. At the Parade Ground in Islamabad, hundreds of Pakistanis gathered on the morning of September 2 to plant trees. Among them were the Mayor, Chief Commissioner Islamabad, Deputy Mayor, DG Federal Education Directorate and children including young female students from various schools of Islamabad.
The Plant for Pakistan initiative will continue its next plantation drive in January 2019. All five provinces are on board and targets will be assigned. Luckily, the previous government’s initiative ‘Green Pakistan Programme’ was already being implemented, which made it easier for the current government to arrange the saplings in a relatively short time. The ‘Green Pakistan Programme’ is now part of the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project” and the arrangement is that 50 percent of the funding will come from the federal government and 50 percent from the provinces. It will be the provinces that will implement the project.
The aim is to involve young girls in the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project” as they will grow up to be the future mothers and nurturers of the families. With the climate change threatening Pakistan, the best solution is to turn the country green, as our Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “Global warming is a reality. We will be badly affected… We can counter it with trees. Growing trees is not a luxury – it is for our survival.”
Pakistan currently has one of the lowest forest covers in the world due to deforestation. Planting trees can help cool down cities and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by producing oxygen. Trees will also help to reduce soil erosion and lessen the intensity of heavy floods. Let us all help to make Pakistan green again!
The writer is an award-winning environmental journalist in Pakistan. She received the Earth Journalism Award in Copenhagen in 2009 for her climate change reporting.