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Planting trees one-by-one in fight against climate change

May 25th, 2020
topic:Climate Change
by:Shadi Khan Saif
located in:Pakistan, China, USA
tags:10 Billion Trees, agriculture, Civilian Conservation Corps, climate change, coal industry, conservation, Coronavirus, COVID-19, economy, environment, flood, Global Climate Risk Index, green agenda, Green Stimulus, greenhouse gasses, heatwave, indigenous plants, monoculture, nuclear power, Pakistan, reforestation, tree planting, unemployment

Facing the wrath of harsh climate change factors, Pakistan, country of over 200 million, is planting trees one-by-one till ten billion as one way of resilience.

Pakistan ranks among the most affected countries on the Global Climate Risk Index. Extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves have been hitting this South Asian country with alarming frequency leading to troubling trends of internal displacement and shrinking agriculture yield.

A severe heatwave in 2015 with temperatures as high as 49 °C (120 °F) struck southern Pakistan killing about 2,000 people. Financial losses are estimated to be worth at least $ 3.8 billion stemming from some 150 such extreme events in the country between 1999 and 2018.

In the backdrop of these grim circumstances came the coronavirus pandemic, further denting the fragile economy and socio-economic fabric particularly with job losses. 

Inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 30's

Drawing a resemblance between coronavirus-hit Pakistan of today with the U.S. after Great Depression in the 1930s, Malik Amin Aslam Khan, an environment enthusiast-turned-adviser to the Prime Minister, came up with the concept of engaging idle work force for the ‘Green Stimulus’ aimed at creating jobs as well as conserving the environment.

Talking to FairPlanet, Khan explained the present “Green Stimulus” of the government is focused on post-COVID job creation and nature restoration, and is inspired by the “Civilian Conservation Corps”, a voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed men that provided manual labour jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands.

Khan said he had first pitched the idea to the government during the lockdown, which got the ball rolling.

"There are three components of the idea including planting trees, investing in protected areas and wildlife habitats and urban sanitation activities - all of which add to climate resilience and are compatible to a low carbon growth", he said.

Thousands of labourers engaged in this drive each now make at least 500 rupees ($3) per day planting trees.

Responding to a question, he said the tree plantation is a part of 5 point 'green agenda' which is much broader, but it is chosen as it is COVID safe activity and provide climate compatible growth and also generate over 60,000 ground jobs. 

Contributing only a fraction of global greenhouse gases, Pakistan ranks fifth on a list of countries most affected by planetary heating over the last two decades.

Critics dub it anenvironmental catastrophe

As the Pakistani government injects an estimated 7.5 billion rupees ($46 million) in funding for this 10 Billion Trees project nationwide, critics point to some of aspects of the drive that, according to them would turn it into an 'environmental disaster'. 

Talking to FairPlanet, award winning environment journalist Amar Guriro said the 10 Billion Tree project is simply designed to get funds through the carbon credit funds regardless of the long-term ‘negative ‘hazardous impacts'.

“This project has not taken into consideration the Environment Impact Assessment study of the likely ‘monoculture’ it is promoting through same types of trees that are not of indigenous nature, but are planted on a vast area in a rush", he said, dubbing the whole project an "environmental catastrophe".

Further consolidating his claims, the senior journalist cited the example of eucalyptus tree being planted in Khyber Pakthunwa province that is already suffering from the lowering of ground water levels. “This (eucalyptus) and other trees that are considered as part of the ‘pulp industry’ for paper production and other goods are not going to address environmental issues Pakistan is facing. They (officials) should have smartly and carefully chosen tree types and carried out Environment Impact Assessment studies”, he stressed.

Other civil society groups and rights organizations are pointing fingers at the government for the paradox in its environmental policy which has projects like the Ten Billion Tree running parallel to the establishment of massive Chinese funded nuclear and coal-powered plants.

Meanwhile, Khan and his colleagues reject these allegations, and claim about 30 million indigenous saplings have already been planted in Punjab province since the start of the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, including mulberry, acacia and moringa.

‘We have included 3 years of care for all plantation plans which should ensure self sustenance of the trees. Also, we will tighten the legislative loopholes, if any, to ensure sustenance”, the prime minister’s adviser stressed.

Article written by:
Shadi-Khan-Saif-1
Shadi Khan Saif
Author, Contributing Editor
Pakistan China USA
Pakistan ranks among the most affected countries on the Global Climate Risk Index.
A severe heatwave in 2015 with temperatures as high as 49 °C (120 °F) struck southern Pakistan killing about 2,000 people.
There are three components of the idea including planting trees, investing in protected areas and wildlife habitats and urban sanitation activities - all of which add to climate resilience.