A long-term forest policy.

Byline: Haseeb Ahmed

RAPID climate change and high air-pollution levels require urgent investment in afforestation programmes in Pakistan. Deforestation is a major cause of erosion of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Forests have direct and indirect linkages with nutrition and food security via wild tree fruits and fuel wood, making them an important instrument in achieving several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The current government has initiated the '10 Billion Tree Tsunami', which aims at rapid afforestation in all Pakistan's provinces. Although it is a much-needed programme, there are concerns regarding the sustainability and long-term viability of such initiatives. This is important given that other political parties do not have a great record of preserving the environment.

The BTT needs to morph into a long-term, institutionalised forest policy that can provide maximum environmental and economic benefits in line with the SDGs. In the absence of such a policy, any change in the government setup can potentially impede the progress achieved so far towards restoring our forest areas. Three aspects are particularly crucial.

Forest conservation should feature prominently in our scientific and political discourse.

Firstly, afforestation needs to be viewed by the Pakistani voter as any other development infrastructure with clear personal and societal benefits. This can happen when an increased emphasis on urban afforestation leads to mitigation of public health crises caused by urban heat effect and air pollution. A clear improvement in air quality and reduction in pollution-induced health issues are bound to get votes in major Punjab cities, which regularly rank high on the pollution scale. This can bring environment to the centre of the political discourse. The present government should link its urban afforestation initiatives to urban air quality in order to enhance citizens' involvement in sustaining green urban infrastructures.

Urban afforestation should be complemented by strict environmental regulations on vehicle emissions and sustainability regulations for homes, buildings and offices. Clear emission reduction and afforestation targets for each district and incentives for achieving those targets can bring about transparency and efficiency.

The added advantage of pursuing green urbanisation is that its positive impact on society is measureable through geospatial imaging and air quality indices...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT