1bn saplings to be planted by mid-2021: PM’s aide

ISLAMABAD: The government will successfully achieve its target of planting one billion saplings by the middle of this year, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said on Tuesday while addressing participants of a press conference.

“The biggest weapon to tackle challenges of climate change is the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami initiative. As we restore destroyed forests, in the first phase the plan is to plant 3.2 billion saplings till 2023. We call it the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami because the present government is here to stay. We are on target so far. Numbers of saplings in nurseries across the country have gone from 90 million to 300 million,” he said, adding the first phase of plantation will be completed by June/July 2021.

Pakistan has been listed among the top ten countries, most vulnerable to impacts of climate change since the last two decades. This issue must be addressed urgently for the survival of future generations as it affects economy, water resources, national security and so on.

“Scientific study shows that average temperature in Pakistan has risen by 1°C. This may seem less but the rise can be disastrous especially for agriculture and the economy. The variability of rains has increased by 20pc. This means the timing of rainy seasons have shifted, while summers have extended. Every year an extra day is added to the summer season,” he said.

According to the SAPM, urban flooding such as the one witnessed in Karachi last monsoon, was a new threat as cities and towns turn into concrete jungles. “Today Karachi has turned into a heat island. The previous government is responsible for wiping out 70pc trees and greenery in Lahore alone. These phenomena are a reality. The best solution is planting more trees, especially in cities. The numbers of glacial lakes in Pakistan’s North have also increased from 50 to 130, according to estimates, in just three years, which is ‘very’ alarming for us,” he added.

Several projects fall under the TBTT initiative such as increasing the number of protected areas, bee harvesting and establishment of a wildlife conservation centre in Islamabad. The PM will soon announce more areas the government intends to protect.

These projects are being monitored by provinces, then by the federal government and thirdly by third parties like Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which will present yearly reports, he added, while sharing images and videos in his presentation.

The videos showed various barren locations, some freed from land mafia where the Ministry of Climate Change had planted forests a year ago that are now flourishing into forests.

“The international community, ministers, artists and especially environmental organisations, have recognized success of the TBTT initiative asking all nations to follow Pakistan’s example. Climate change will remain a challenge, which ever government comes into power. The best solution is planting as many trees as possible,” he added.

Dawn, February 10th, 2021