Trees: still time

Ashraf Ansari

THE new government in Islamabad is conscious of the need to grow as many trees as possible throughout the country to check environment degradation. Though the Monsoon season is on its way out, it is still time to plant trees in the upper regions of the country. People are ready to respond to the calls of Imran Khan.
He may make a persistent ‘repeat’ call for people to grow trees on land available and protect them while they grow. The state institutions and officials should join hands with the people in carrying out this national task.
In the meanwhile strict measures are to be taken to conserve forests and protect standing trees. A vigorous campaign must be launched to grow trees along roads, rail tracks, water channels, in educational institutions and even in factories where some land lies unused. In the colonial era, there was a law that prohibited buildings close to the highways. This law not been removed from the statute book, one may hope. This law needs to be enforced in letter and spirit.
During the medieval era of Sultans and Mogul Kings, there was a tradition of growing trees along the roads, the main purpose being to provide comfort to the travellers. Unfortunately, our rulers in the modern era have ignored this wise tradition. Over and above, trees lining the roads have been cut mercilessly.
There should be an end to this recklessness. Another glaring mindless activity can be seen in case of by-passes built to avoid road congestion in the cities.
By passes in Pakistan become congested because buildings emerge on two sides of the by-pass roads. This senseless tradition has to end. Another ugly development can be witnessed along the Motorways. Buildings are coming up very close to the Motorways. There is mushrooming of housing societies around the new Islamabad International Airport. In advanced countries of the world, airports are surrounded by forests to give a green look to them and for reasons of security and environment.
All this cannot be done in the absence of required legislation and enforcement of law. Another point is that our forest establishments at the federal and provincial level should be activated to undertake research to determine choice of suitable trees for certain types of climes and soil. There is one misfortune also. Our decision makers, in most cases bureaucrats, have developed a mind-set to grow foreign species of trees and prefer ornamental plants.
They must come out of their complex and promote growing of indigenous trees. Indigenous species of trees are more suitable in all respects. Pakistan has vast possibilities of becoming greener if a national programme is launched in all seriousness. Above all, there is no escape from challenges of climate change being faced by the country, needless to point out that it is among the ten most vulnerable countries of the world. Forests are a major check against climate change.

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