Pakistan is Planting its Way to A Greener Future
In addition to being one of the most dangerous countries in the world, grappling with decades of terror attacks, religious extremism and poverty, Pakistan is considered the world’s seventh most vulnerable country to climate change, according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Though it’s one of the least polluting nations, Pakistan’s close proximity to the Himalayan glaciers, which have already begun to melt as global temperatures rise, means that flooding is an increasing threat to communities nearby. Decades of rapid illegal logging and commercial development that have reduced the country’s forests to less than 3% of its land area have only exacerbated this problem through speeding up land degradation and biodiversity loss.
In 2017, newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ campaign in an attempt to reverse these effects while contributing toward an international goal that calls for the global restoration of 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020. The campaign targets the northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhaw, where 40% of the remaining forests are located. This was part of the wider ‘Green Growth Initiative,’ which promises to provide a means for social uplift, poverty eradication and better overall quality of life to citizens.
While initiated at the government level, the project itself was largely carried out by the local people of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw who were motivated by the threat of climate change to their livelihoods. By working together, locals successfully planted 1 billion trees across a two year period, restoring 350,000 hectares of degraded land and surpassing their target months ahead of schedule.
But that’s only the beginning of the story. In 2018, Khan announced a new ambitious goal to plant 10 billion trees within five years – what he dubbed a ‘10 billion Tree Tsunami.’ Though this is by no means an easy feat, there seems to be a green awakening of Pakistan’s plight, fostering a sense of community spirit and cooperation amongst people of all income levels and regions. As the new federal minister for climate change Malik Amin Aslam said, “This is one of the rare things in our society that is not divisive,” serving as a reminder that despite our individual differences, problems and struggles, we can and should cast these aside for the sake of building a greener and kinder future.