Minister for Climate Change, Mushahidullah Khan, on Sunday urged the federal and provincial forest officials to boost urban forestry at national scale to protect urban areas from heat waves and from becoming heat islands.
He told the forest officials, “Planting trees in urban centres must be made integral part of the seasonal monsoon and spring tree plantation campaigns.
The minister highlighted that urban forestry was the most viable and cheapest way to protect Pakistan’s urban areas from becoming heat islands.
“Our cities and towns have now become recently hotter than their adjoining or nearby rural areas for various reasons and increasing green areas and planting more trees in the cities and towns is the most effective and cheapest way to cope with heat island effect that poses risk to lives and livelihoods in urban centres of the country,” Mushahidullah Khan noted.
An urban heat island effect is described as an urban or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities, he added.
Quoting a study of the UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO), Mushahidullah Khan said planting trees in urban areas could help cool the temperature by between two to eight degree Celsius.
This would help cut use of air conditioners by more than 30 percent, use of which is one major cause of the urban warming, he said.
Counting key causes of the heat island effects, he said removal of green areas, rapid rise in motor vehicles, soaring building construction activities, modification of land surfaces, emission of heat from air conditioning units and encroachment on natural waterways or rainwater drains have converted the urban centres into heat islands, making them unlivable.
The minister noted that these natural waterways that snake through these urban centres provide natural cooling effect when wind passed across them during sweltering summer months.
“But it is a matter of sorry that most of them have been encroached upon by land mafia in connivance with civil and municipal authorities,” he remarked.