An APP Feature by Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Jul 7 (APP):Known for the home of beautiful Deodar tree worldwide, Pakistan is a unique country in South Asia blessed with numerous varieties of indigenous tall canopy trees extremely beneficial to increase chances of rains besides mitigating the adverse effects of climate change, global warming and air pollution.
Pakistan is also an abode to world tallest shady trees found in Hamalya, Karakuram to Hindokush mountains ranges, coastal areas of Karachi and Gwadar, alpine pasture Malakand, Hazara, Muree, AJK and GB beside arid zones of DI Khan, DG Khan, Cholistan, Bahawalpur and Tharparker, are acting as purifiers of environment by significantly enhancing chances of rain, producing oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide, controlling temperature and air pollution in the country.
The national tree of Pakistan, Deodar and other famous species including Kail, Spruce and Walnut are being found in relatively cold climate areas of Swat, Chital, Kohistan, Dir, Gilgit Baltistan and AJK whereas Punjab and KP are the epicenters of native Shisham, Siris, Pipal, Bakin, Amaltas, Willow, Poplar, Mulberry, Phulai, Alstona, Kachnar, Bottle Brush, Gul e Nashtar and Jaman.
Kikar, Neem, Beera at Sindh and mangroves at coastal areas of Karachi, Thatta and Balochistan and endangered juniper trees at Ziarat near Quetta are easiest sources to counterbalance growing effects of climate change and air pollution besides bolstering chances of rains in Pakistan.
“Pakistan is bestowed with more than 200 native trees and nine different forest ecological systems hardly found in any other country of world,” Muhammad Tehmasip, Project Director, PTI Government’s Billions Trees Afforestration Project (BTAP) told APP.
He said, “one healthy shady tree provides oxygen to two to four persons and 1075 plants on one hectare land absorb six to eight tons carbon dioxide on daily basis.”
“Trees are a main source of absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen for people and bolstering chances of rains,” Dr Zaheer Ahmed Babar, Director Forecasting, Pakistan Metrological Department told APP.
Due to increase in global warming, he said, change had been witnessed in normal patterns of rains in recent years across the globe including Pakistan and resultantly disturbed the weather pattern.
He said, “On average 267.6mm rainfall per year occur in Pakistan, and areas with thick forests normally receive more rains like upper Punjab and KP.”
KP province has a rich ecological biodiversity with 26.6pc expanded forest covered area and its Galyat, Kaghan, Naran, Malam Jabba and Kalam receive substantial rainfall during monsoon.
Peshawar valley had been once the stronghold of endangered Shisham, Siris and Pepal and a thick forest here was a source of rains for people, habitat for wildlife and control of pollutant gases.
The history revealed that first Mughal Emperor, Zaheer-ud-Din Babar in his book “Tuzkay Babari” had written about hunting of a lion in the outskirts of Peshawar, which manifested presence of a dense forest here.
During King Sher Shah Suri, (1486-1545) era, Shisham was planted in large number along GT roadside in present KP. With a passage of time, the population of these abating trees had significantly decreased in Peshawar Valley comprising Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera and Charsadda districts due to mushroom population growth, urbanization, unabated housing and construction activities.
A new visitor would be extremely disappointed if goes through Swat canal linking Katlang-Swabi, Michi canal in Dargai Malakand, Abazai beanch in Charsadda and outskirts of Peshawar to see hundreds of withered Shisham.
Today even birds like Cranes and Houbara Bustard can hardly be seen in the Peshawar’s outskirts for which once it was famous for in addition to substantial decrease of aquatic species including Mahsher and Trout in rivers Swat and Kabul due to water pollution.
Due to deforestation, air pollution has engulfed Peshawar, which could be seen even with a naked eye these days, exposing people to serious environmental and health hazards.
“Plantation of native plants is the easiest source to control air pollution in big cities like Peshawar where Particulate Matter (PM)’s level (PM 2.5) has crossed National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS)’s limits,” Muhammad Irshad, Chief Analyst, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told APP.
He said canopy trees were a great source of controlling dangerous PM 2.5 level pollution. PM 2.5 is a complex mixture of extremely small and light particles staying for longer period in air and once inhaled, can affect peoples’ hearts, nose to lungs, respiratory system besides leading to high blood pressure, strokes, asthma, cancer and other chronic diseases, he informed.
EPA official said minimum level of PM 2.5 in Peshawar’s air is about 40micrograms (mg) per cubic meter and maximum 52mg per cubic meter while NEQS recommended level of tiny particles in air should not be more than 15mg per cubic meter.
He said EPA had conducted a scientific study with assistance of SUPARCO last year in Peshawar and recorded 52mg/m3 higher dust and smoke particulate in air which normally should be 15mg/m3 as per NEQS standards.
“The smoke and dust in air was measured between five to 10 feet higher in different places where PM2.5 is almost four times higher than NEQS limits,” he said adding, canopy trees with 10 feet or more height have the ability to absorb such high level of carbon dioxide and pollutant gases in Peshawar.
To quickly fill up native trees’ deficiency, exotic trees like eucalyptus was imported from Australia in the past and planted in large quantity in the water starved Pakistan due to its high growth rate despite absorbing huge water contrary to our native species adversely affecting water table.
“Millions of trees are planted during spring and monsoon afforestation campaigns every year in Pakistan but many disappear with a passage of time because of wrong selection of saplings for different climate zones, ill-planning and improper care,” Manzoorul Haq, former Ambassador of Pakistan told APP.
In-spite of unsuccessful experiences of plantation of Dates (Kajoor) trees on Quaid-e-Azam Highway at Blue Area Islamabad, he regretted that the same mistake was repeated on Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway where dates’ plants were planted in substantial quantity contrary to the area’s climate conditions, resultantly they are vulnerable to die pre-maturely and their overall growth would be affected.
Despite numerous qualities of cost efficient native trees, he said, preference was still being given to eucalyptus and fashionable small-sized bushy plants which scarcely have the power to fight pollutant gases.
Project Director BTAP, Muhammad Tehmasip said first man made forest on pattern of ‘Changa Manga’ had been raised on 32,000 hectares at Ghari Chandan near Peshawar where 3.2 billion saplings mostly native plants were planted during 2014-17 to control temperature and air pollution besides bolstering chances of rains.
Approximately 35 per cent are eucalyptus, 40 per cent palosa, 20 per cent shisham and remaining are bair, kanair, kiker were raised at Ghari Chandan.
Tehmasip said a record 1.20 billion trees including 42 different native plants were planted in first phase of BTAP in KP. He said PC-1 of 10 billion trees afforestration project (10BTAP) under ‘Plant for Pakistan’ initiative of the Prime Minister, costing Rs 27 billion for KP has been approved under which a share of 50pc each would be provided by Federal and KP Govts to achieve plantations target of one billion saplings during next four years in the province.
During fiscal year 2019-20, he said Federal Govt would provide Rs7.5 billion and Rs 2 billion would be contributed by KP Govt for plantations related activities under 10 BTAP.
“We are going to launch massive afforestration campaign by upcoming monsoon season i.e 15th July for which nurseries on 540 hectares with 130.5billion plants mostly native species have been raised,” he informed.
Tehmasip said maximum plantation would be carried out in merged areas of erstwhile FATA where about Rs 9 billion would be spent on afforstration during next four years.
Ambassador Manzoor said Afforestration projects like ‘Plant for Pakistan and BTAP” could be successful only on long term basis when preference is given to plantation of native species in large scale.
He said if every person plant at least ten saplings per year and properly look after them the target of 10 billion trees could easily be achieved.