Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated Pakistan’s first smart forest at Rakh Jhok Forest, Sheikhupura, on Wednesday as part of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, which he claims would solve a slew of problems, contribute $40 billion to the country’s economy, and generate one million employment.
The smart forest project, will be operated by sensors and a surveillance system.
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The prime minister, speaking during the inauguration of the forest, called the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project “one of the biggest projects in Pakistan’s history,” and one that will help the nation solve environmental and other problems.
As a result, he said, the initiative was important for the whole nation.
“This will be an exemplary project,” the prime minister said. “It will change Pakistan and its environment.”
Prime Minister Khan went on to say that technology will be used to track the development of virtually every plant under the smart forest programme, and that appropriate authorities will be notified if a tree was being chopped down through sensors.
“Ten million trees will be planted [in the smart forest] through proper planning for the first time in Pakistan.”
Prime Minister went on to say that Pakistan’s greatest problem is a lack of water, and that since it is one of the countries most impacted by climate change, planting trees and initiatives like the smart forest may help solve the problem.
Apart from boosting tree cover, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the programme will also help attract visitors.
He went on to say that under the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, three barrages would be constructed on the Ravi River, resulting in an increase in groundwater levels and, after the project was begun, other associated businesses would benefit as well.
The premier said that the project’s implementation was very difficult, and that if it had been simple, prior administrations would have finished it.
“But [Chief Minister Usman] Buzdar’s team will complete it as they are committed to the purpose,” he assured.
Addressing the chief minister, he said, “I know that your team will come across multiple challenges in the execution of this project, but you should remain prepared to address all of them and see through the project.”
At the outset of his speech, the prime minister said, “If we want to leave behind a better Pakistan for our future generation, we must make our country green.”
“I have seen forests being destroyed in Pakistan before my eyes,” he lamented, adding that the country also suffered the loss of wildlife along with disappearing forests.
He recalled that while he was growing up in Lahore, the city’s residents would get sweet water and drank tap water.
“But the pollution witnessed today in Lahore is unprecedented, posing health risks to the elderly and children, and all of the city’s sewage is dumped in Ravi [River],” he said. “And since the sewage is not treated, it contaminates groundwater.”
According to the prime minister, 640 million trees had been planted across Pakistan until 2013.
“Whereas we planted one billion trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between 2013 and 2018, within a span of just five years,” he said, adding that his government’s target was to plant 10 billion trees in the country.