IT was, perhaps, for the first time that spring tree plantation campaign got underway in the entire country, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir on one day under the catchy nomenclature of ‘Green Pakistan’ initiative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, conveying shared desire of federal and provincial governments to address the challenge of environment degeneration caused mainly by denuding forest cover. The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers expressed their resolve to work jointly to make Pakistan clean, green and beautiful.
The Green Pakistan programme was approved by the PM in March last year on the pattern of Great Green Wall Programme of China, under which 100m saplings are to be planted throughout the country over the next five years. Protection and management of wildlife and reclaiming and developing forest areas are among the main aspects of the programme. However, it took government one year to formally launch the project, which is indicative of the priority being given to this crucial issue despite the fact that we have a full-fledged ministry of Climate Change to take care of such programmes and issues. Anyhow, now that the programme has been launched and announcement has been made to observe Feb 09 every year as National Green Day, one hopes concerted efforts would be made not only to realise this modest target of tree plantation but also surpass it with a big margin in view of serious implications of environmental issues. We have no time to waste or indulge in just sloganeering as already deforestation in Pakistan is highest in Asia while only lip-service is being paid to tree plantation campaigns since long. Protection of forests, increase in forest cover and conservation of wildlife would remain an elusive dream until and unless necessary awareness is raised among citizens and they assume ownership of the drives fully realising the consequences of denuding forest cover. We are losing more and more trees to unplanned industrialisation, housing schemes, roads and highways, runways, water reservoirs and more importantly due to felling of trees for firewood and construction material. We can make up the loss if we sensitise local communities and involve schools, colleges, universities, government and private offices and corporate sector in tree plantation drives. Survival of saplings with proper care and protection is also a key to success of such efforts.