World Environment Day: Pakistan and its ‘tree tsunami’ project in the spotlight

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Ten billion trees planted by 2023. This is the ambitious project of the ” Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme ,” launched in 2019 by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. The first phase aims to plant 3.25 billion trees in the country, at an estimated cost of about 105 billion Pakistani rupees (about RM2.8bil). The programme also aims to preserve mangroves (an ecosystem of trees along the coastline), reforest cities and create more than 5,500 “green” jobs.

This reforestation project is part of a similar approach to the “Billion Tree Tsunami” launched in 2014 by the previous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, which aimed to plant one billion trees across the country.

Meanwhile another WWF Pakistan -supported project launched in 2018 has planted nearly 1.6 million trees, native species in the country, in different cities of Pakistan, along with about a billion native plants.

Pakistan is hosting World Environment Day 2021 in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on June 5. — AFPPakistan is hosting World Environment Day 2021 in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on June 5. — AFP

A country at high risk of deforestation

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 , Pakistan ranks eighth among countries most affected by climate change between 1999 and 2019, with economic losses equivalent to US$3.772bil (RM15.4bil).

Extreme heat waves, high humidity, flooding… Pakistan is directly affected by the melting of Himalayan glaciers, which is responsible for severe water shortages in much of the country, as well as the gradual disappearance of riparian forests.

In fact its annual deforestation rate is considered one of the highest in the world. Between 2000 and 2010, the country lost an average of 43,000 hectares of forest per year, about half the area of its capital Islamabad.

Its forest currently covers about 4.478 million hectares (5.1%), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is a very small share when you consider that the world’s forest cover is 4.06 billion hectares (about 31% of the total land area).

This year’s World Environment Day will also mark the opening of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystems Restoration 2021-2030. The year 2030 as a deadline was not picked randomly: it corresponds to the deadline set by scientists to avoid the amplification of the effects of climate change.

“2020 was a year of reckoning, facing multiple crises, including a global pandemic and the continued crises of climate, nature and pollution. In 2021, we must take deliberate steps to move from crisis to healing: and in so doing, we must recognise that the restoration of nature is imperative to the survival of our planet and the human race,” outlined Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme . — AFP

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