Plantation drive sans rhetorics

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Ashraf Ansari

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurates National Monsoon Plantation drive today.
We in Pakistan are familiar with such seasonal drives wrapped in vows to turn the country green. However all such campaigns over the years only turned out to be more or less lip service creating occasions for photo sessions at all levels of hierarchy in every nook and corner of the country. Forest departments in the provinces and at federal level become conspicuous to prove their existence and utility.
This is one aspect of the scenario. The other aspect is wreck less selling of trees in the few forested patches still surviving in the country, especially in hilly areas. Periodical wild fires eat up large chunks of forests every year.
Recent jungle fires in the KP province caused formidable destruction of forests and tragic death of wild life. Incidents of jungle fires in KP were eye opener to the fact that there was urgent need to put in place a system of precautions and controlling fires erupting in the forests during summers. The foregoing glimpses of our forest situation become all the more horrible when seen against a very low percentage of our lands under forest, not more than 5 percent. Granted that we as a nation lack tradition of plantation, at least we could have developed a culture of conservation and preservation of green patches. Our horrorful account of forests does not end here. Lo and behold! There are two mafias, dragons devouring our forests. There is a timber mafia and another masqrading as exporters of wood furniture. Added to this are our elites who are so fond of good furniture. Sometimes back, the Prime minister launched green, clean Pakistan campaign. There is an urgent need to pursue this campaign in a structural manner and at the level of community and institutions. The task is too heavy to be left at the mercy of our dormant forest departments. Our elected representatives from the lowest to the highest levels should be tasked to grow trees in all sallow lands. Our railway lines, roads and water courses must be lined by multiple rows of trees. The motorway may be especially focused for this purpose.
The point is our federal government taking provincial governments on board should prepare a comprehensive plan of action to meet objectives of green clean Pakistan campaign. This plan should also include a strategy to promote research to help the campaign. It is time to rise above rhetorics of billions or tsunamis.
It is time to go much beyond seasonal campaigns. The campaign has to continue throughout the year involving the whole nation. There is no gainsaying that the issue of climate change cannot be ignored any longer.

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