Imran Khan professes to be a man-of-outdoors fervently in love with trees, flora and fauna. His passion is very well exhibited by the greenery surrounding his sprawling residence with full-grown trees that he planted himself almost two decades before. His passion is genuine because he has lived a great deal of his life in the open, lush cricket grounds. He gave vent to his passion immediately after taking over as prime minister of Pakistan and became the first head of the government to look after the ecological needs of the country.
He launched his “Plant for Pakistan”, afforestation drive in the country and has plans to plant billions of trees throughout the land. Imran Khan is very aware that Pakistan is seventh on the list of countries very likely to be affected by the global warming. He also knows that Pakistan has borne the brunt of excessive deforestation in the world. The timber mafia has badly mauled the trees in the length and breadth of Pakistan feeling them indiscriminately causing a high rise in carbon emissions. The disaster running riot in the country has also resulted in flash floods and tremendous lack of biodiversity. He knows that forestation and natural regeneration of trees will allow the soil to defy erosion and reinforce riverbanks and aiding in farm forestry.
Imran Khan plans to restore ecological integrity along with restoring depleted forests of the country. This is the only method to fight the effects of global warming while at the same time improving human well-being through multi functional landscapes. PTI government has come out with a well-coordinated environmental policy that will not only lead to alleviation of climate change but will also create socio economic opportunities. The emergence of government sponsored nurseries for tree saplings will generate jobs. Creating green-environment related opportunities will strengthen local communities by creating green jobs within the region.
It should be kept in view always that consequences of deforestation and other types of land degradation are severe, exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss and decline in ecosystem services that hundreds of millions of people depend on. The pledge to plant trees in Pakistan will also help mitigate the loss of biodiversity giving a healthier environment to survive in. Breaking the spiral of loss and degradation and restoring these lands would bring untold benefits to people and the environment in general. Imran Khan’s initiative of green Pakistan will mitigate the negative effects of growing industrialisation and urbanisation in various areas in the country.
PTI environment manifesto includes dam-building and water conservation initiatives to tackle drought; introducing green building codes and supporting clean energy. The World Economic Forum lauded the efforts of the new prime minister who has vowed to plant 10 billion trees that would enable Pakistan to become the big country on the climate watch with its ability to affect the global warming scale. It may be kept in mind that many countries all over the world are moving towards a commitment to plant more trees to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Currently China is the biggest eco-investor with a plan to plant 66 billion trees to preserve the eco system of the country and to make a significant global impact.
It is also noted with concern that environmental degradation is fundamentally related to poverty in Pakistan as approximately less than one-fourth of the country’s population is poor and directly hooked on natural resources for their livelihood whether obtained through agriculture, hunting, forestry or fisheries. Poverty combined with a rapidly increasing population and growing urbanisation, is leading to intense pressures on the surroundings. The environment-poverty nexus cannot be ignored if effective and pragmatic answers to remedy environmental hazards are to be considered.
Many observers point out that a delicate and damaged resource base is a major cause of poverty as agriculture yields are lower on degraded land, forests are depleted and access to vital livelihood resources declines. The declension of the environment continues to affect the livelihood and health, increasing the exposure of poor to disaster and environmental-related disputes. Environmental degradation, air and water contamination, ozone layer depletion, deforestation, desertification, vanishing biodiversity and land degradation have resulted in climate change and ecological imbalance.
PTI government has taken up the challenge to restore ecological balance in Pakistan and by doing so has created an awareness that was sadly missing in the past. Though Pakistan always participated in a number of summits concerning the impact of global warming but the previous government did nothing more but to establish frameworks without taking practical steps. Imran Khan has taken on the challenge head-on and is seriously engaged to put Pakistan firmly on the path of eco-friendly policies.
Undertaking plantation of 10 billion trees looks very ambitious but it is much within the realm of possibility as Pakistan is a fertile land. The prospects augur well for green development through optimising and enhancing ecosystem services, tackling climate change, improving water security and providing opportunities for the vast workforce concentrated in areas of agriculture. TW
Syed Amin-ul-Hasan is a management expert