Eucalyptus trees a good fuel source at the cost of high water consumption.

Byline: Nabeel Anwar Dhakku

CHAKWAL -- MNA Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Dullah was shocked when he discovered that hundreds of eucalyptus saplings were set to be planted after a ceremony in Dullah village to celebrate International Forest Day on March 21.

He was among several others who expressed reservations regarding planting eucalyptus. 'Why are you planting eucalyptus when it consumes so much water,' Mr Dullah asked. Mohammad Saqib, a forest conservator from the Rawalpindi division, then explained to him the benefits of planting eucalyptus and the myths around it.

Over the years, eucalyptus has been criticised for being a 'water guzzling' plant, with voices urging the government to stop planting eucalyptus trees.

However, foresters in Punjab have increased eucalyptus plantation across the province after a national seminar in Peshawar was organised by the Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI) about its pros and cons.

Eucalyptus has now emerged as one of the preferred plants in the ongoing tree plantation campaign being carried out across the country on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

'Unfortunately, eucalyptus has been portrayed as environmental hazard because of false notions sans any logic and research,' Mr Saqib, the forest conservator, told Dawn.

The blunder made in past years was that eucalyptus saplings were planted in fertile and water-scarce areas, senior Punjab forest department official says

But he hastened to add that eucalyptus should be planted in problematic areas, such as waterlogged or saline belts.

'It is true that eucalyptus consumed sufficient water, but it is not as it has been portrayed. An interesting point is that the water intake of eucalyptus is less than that of shisham, which is a native tree,' he said.

According to PFI's report, issued in connection with its seminar, eucalyptus is an exotic tree species belonging to the Myrtaceae family.

'It is a tall, evergreen, flowering tree species. It adapts easily to dry climates and various soil conditions, grows rapidly and requires less care after plantation. Over 800 different species of eucalyptus are found all over the world,' the report states.

Fast-growing eucalyptus plants can be seen on forest reserve land near Dullah village. The other picture shows students planting eucalyptus saplings. Dawn

Eucalyptus was imported to Pakistan from Australia during Gen Ayub Khan's era to increase forest cover. Since then, it has been included in social and agro forestry...

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