Green Pakistan even in the days of COVID-19
Besides climate change, Pakistan faces enormous challenges with the recent and ongoing COVID-19 crisis. To mobilize our actions against these crises and environmental degradation, we must carry on plantation and water conservation with all the safety measures including social distancing and wearing protective masks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a global threat with more than half a million deaths to date and ongoing infections, including tragic losses in Pakistan. These resulting tragedies combined with the social, health, and economic impacts of mitigation efforts to slow disease transmission through shifting human relations to limit exposure using preventive practices, such as social distancing which restrict citizens to remain with a distance at a minimum of 2 meters. Protective measures such as wearing masks is also critical, along with frequent washing of hands.
Pakistan has failed at times to take the safety recommendations for proper lockdown times and practices of social distancing, and as a result are facing the rise in cases in most cities which is requiring strict measures by authorities. Since the transmission of the virus responsible for the pandemic travels through the air, this is the most effective measure to date. Countries and cities that have and are practicing this are experiencing a recovery from this menace. Environmental factors regarding COVID-19 are also uncertain, so we must be careful in not assuming that the summer will lead to any loss of cases, as it spreads rather rapidly.
The dangers of COVID-19 are eye openers which should keep us awake to all our wishful thinking at bay, and with the ongoing climate change impacts in the foreground. While it is good to imagine effective ways to deal with it as well, please we should make sure that we are practicing social distancing and self-quarantine if needed, while not clustering in groups and social activities.
In this regard and in view of the present opportunity to green Pakistan for the upcoming plantation season, we recommend that plantation be carried out by citizens in a safe manner, following all the safety protocols including by not clustering into groups for such activities. Subh-e-Nau played a key role in advocating for a “National Day for Plantation”, which is now mandated on August 18, but we can begin now and plant all year long, while following all safety protocols, towards making Pakistan truly clean and green.
In these rather challenging times, it good to remind ourselves of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who stated: “If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani).
Practically implementing such timeless wisdom first shows the commitment of the government and authorities in restoring the natural beauty and well-being of Pakistan. It would also project our nation as a peace loving and environmentally conscious member of the world community. Hence, top authorities should be involved in declaring the spring season to include active plantation campaigns supported by the government. Since the upcoming plantation season is in August, it should be declared now, alongside September, for heavy plantation so that this flows literally from the top leadership. The Prime Minister, for example, could possibly announce this on national and international media, for planting activities done without clustering in groups and following of all safety protocols including social distancing.
Deforestation is at the root of most of our environmental degradation and climate change evils and curbing it in the time of the COVID-19 crisis is even more important. The results, which will of course rejuvenate Pakistan in all sorts of ways will bring our communities and together and unite them for just causes. It will complement existing efforts by our government such as the Billion Tree Tsunami campaign. Additionally, in such plantation drives, we enhance the civic duty and responsibility that is incumbent on our youth. Pakistan sits well below a precarious 5% forest cover, against a required 25%; this cannot be simply be reached by the government and authorities due to limited resources.
A top-level coordinating body should be formed under the Chairmanship of a high ranking official, which exclusively handles and monitors this on a regular basis as the implementation period is short. The other option is to entrust the whole responsibility to one Department that can supervise the implementation of activities from the top right down to the grass roots level, addressing all problems along the way.
The “National Day for Plantation” should be formally embedded as a part of our legislation. Following the declaration, a national policy should follow, the planning of which should start in parallel to the declaration. The national policy should be debated in the national assembly and adopted so that this becomes part and parcel of celebrating every season by plantation in the future. In this way, it can be ensured that this will not just be a one-time activity by the Government in power, rather a milestone to be remembered by the future generations.
The rest of the campaign should focus on involving people at the grass roots level and promote water conservation. City Governments should be entrusted the responsibility of identifying places, supplying plants and assisting people so that Pakistan is literally transformed to a greener cleaner nation. At an individual/family level, people should be encouraged to use water saved in the kitchen, for example, after washing edibles such as vegetables, fruits etc. or after ‘wuddoo’ (ablution) for watering plants.
With the ever-growing demand of water, and the known adverse impacts, the demand for rainwater recycling systems all over the world is on the increase. Pakistan should embrace these methods, as western Britain, China, Brazil, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany and India are all using these techniques. These methods are not rocket science – by working extensively on rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment across Pakistan, we will make sure that we are not only addressing the drought situation by storing rain, but also, in addition taking into reusing a relatively pure form of water naturally available to us from the skies above.
Water conservation: Hand-in-hand with plantation
With the upcoming monsoon season, we must also actively conserve water. Water is used in everyday life, oftentimes wasted away due to inefficient means employed. It can be recycled, for example, we can save this precious resource after completing Wudu (ablution for prayers) for plants. Similarly, after washing clothes the same water can be used to wash the floors and toilets. Instead of washing cars with a pipe, we can use a bucket of water or wipe it with a wet cloth. Whenever a need for hot water arises, the cold water already in the pipes is lost. We can save this water by using a bucket or other container. This clean water can be further used for watering plants and trees. This water can also be utilized in the pipes can be kept warm if the pipes are insulated.
Another source of the losses incurred is by flushing water. Latest technology must be used to reduce water losses, for example, low volume flush tanks can reduce the water consumption to one third. Considering the various factors associated with water as resource, an emphasis on the simplest measures that comes to view, is common sense conservation of water. As an organization, Subh-e-Nau advocates this line of thinking as a common theme to all the solutions provided or in consideration. The stresses due to climate change and changing weather are not good indications of what lies ahead. We must stop leaks, invest heavily in rainwater harvesting and into individual conservation measures as well, especially during a time of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
To start, rainwater harvesting is the gathering and storage of rain from roofs or from a surface catchment for various uses. This notion of is well documented from pre-Roman times and on all the major continents, although in industrialized countries, until recently, the practice had largely expired away with the introduction of reliable mains-supplied water. The water is generally stored in rainwater tanks or directed into mechanisms, which recharge ground water. Rainwater harvesting can provide lifeline water for human consumption, lessen economic burdens and the need to build reservoirs, which oftentimes require the use of valuable and fertile regions.
Traditionally, rainwater harvesting has been practiced in arid and semi-arid areas, and has provided drinking water, domestic water, water for livestock, water for small irrigation and a way to replenish ground water levels. However, this can easily be extended towards urban areas where similar benefits can be achieved.
Subh-e-Nau Plantation Campaign 2020: Green Pakistan even in the days of COVID-19
With the ongoing COVID-19 crises, all plantation activities will be done without clustering in groups, with social distancing and wearing safety devices such as masks, in the spirit of educating the participants, especially the youth emphasizing that their efforts are needed for the very survival of the planet as well as making Pakistan an evergreen nation in the process. Our approach in this plantation season would be to raise awareness, provide information to citizens interested in individual activities. Geared towards involvement from community at all levels, plantation campaigns by SN are done with sustainability as well as placing indigenous plants as the only choice.
Indigenous tree species should form the key components of any plantation drive, not just this coming August and there are good scientific and health reasons for doing so. As is unanimously voiced by experts, this may take time; however, is the only way to ensure a long-term stability of our environment.
Plantation activities will be lobbied to occur alongside the need for a National Day for Plantation, as this will prevent further deforestation of our country. Advocacy campaigns in this regard will be presented to authorities, so that they can prevent mindless extraction of community-based forests.
Why are Indigenous Trees important for our Forest Ecosystems?
Bringing in exotic or “alien species” oftentimes creates unpredictable damage to not only the growth of our forest ecosystems and the environment, but also affects all living things. Take the example of the infamous Paper Mulberry in Islamabad which literally wreaks asthmatic havoc on us each summer, when there are record levels of pollen released by this foreign species. In addition, this tree is rendering our existing species extinct due to so-called “allelopathic effects” – these effects inhibit the growth of local plants by secreting chemicals in the soil.
Which species for reforestation purposes?
In Karachi and Balochistan, what are commonly known as wilayati keeker (Mesquite) and beli were planted for the very reason that they grew fast, but this has restricted or even wiped out other indigenous trees and shrubs like Acacia senegal – local name Khor, Acacia nilotica – local name Kikar or Bhabar, Prosopis cineraria – local name kandi or jandi. These species must be replanted, and slow replacement of exotics must happen alongside.
The Northern forests in the earthquake affected areas mostly consist of Cheer (Long Needle Pine), Fir, Deodar and Kail (Blue Pine) varieties which should form the basis of reforestation efforts in the affected areas.
In the case of Islamabad, there are many beautiful trees in the area that are naturally part of the landscape, e.g. Shirin. Similarly, Sumbul trees should be encouraged as they also have economic value if the seeds are harvested as they are used to fill pillows. CDA should encourage harvesting of seeds of this tree as well. Banyan tree or Bur as is commonly known was planted for centuries. Sher Shah Suri planted these trees at regular intervals on the GT Road in sets of three with water ponds for horses. People also used to rest under these. Peepal is also a very good native tree for the purpose.
Further recommendations are: Pine – local name Cheer, Sukh Chain, and Kachnar. Local Mulberry that produces black colored fruit is a very good choice, since the fruit has medicinal qualities of healing sore throats and infections.
Our country needs to rejuvenate itself every coming plantation season and involving our citizens will ensure that we are resilient from the present-day COVID-19 and climate crises, not only in the present but also in the coming days.
Tips for public usage of water
Individual responsibility needed in solving water crisis
Use a pan for dish cleaning, instead of a running sink tap
Avoid using a running shower; use a bucket instead
Use recycled water for gardening, such as saved ‘Wudu’ water
Monitor and repair, in a timely manner of leaking taps and pipes
Clean cars with a bucket instead of using a pipe
Employ smaller flush tanks for saving water
Consider dietary changes towards less meat consumption, which takes twice as much water to cook than vegetable dishes.
Plant trees and raise your concern at rapid deforestation.
Writer: Dr. Farrukh Chishtie
Gardening — Doing It Naturally
Organic gardening is all about allowing nature to take care of itself without resorting to any form of chemical intervention but, in order for this to happen you first need to achieve natural balance and harmony in your garden. Regimental rows of healthy fruit, vegetables and herbs are a wonderful sight and keen gardeners usually keep their plots and pots meticulously weeded so that undesired plants do not take up any of the precious nutrients, minerals and water intended for the crops under cultivation but….this is not always as beneficial as it seems. (Part-V).
Some ‘weeds’, which are only ‘out of place plants’ after all, are far more attractive to insects than cultivated ones. So, if they have the choice of something like stinging nettles for instance rather than cabbages they will leave the cabbage for you and gorge on stinging nettles instead although, if you are familiar with ‘wild food’ you may actually prefer to eat the vitamin and mineral rich stinging nettles instead of the cabbage!
First and foremost, you need to both know and understand exactly what you are growing and stick to varieties which are eminently suitable for your particular location, climatic and soil conditions. So, take a good look around, learn which species are traditionally cultivated in your area and avoid ‘exotics’ until you have the experience to know if they will thrive or not. Plant species which are known to be problem prone should be avoided as why put in lots of hard work for a crop which will inevitably be extremely poor at the best, completely fail or run the risk of attracting otherwise avoidable pests and diseases which could move on to attack usually problem free plants close by. Play it safe, stick with the tried and tested, learn which ‘weeds’ pests refer, and which plants attract natural predators that, in their turn, prey on garden pests.
This is not to advocate that you should allow out of place plants to smother your garden by the way, leaving a few clumps here and there, possibly around the boundary is generally enough to do the trick.
Creating a diverse ecosystem is usually the best bet, this means growing a bit of this and a bit of that rather than planting masses of any one species as this method helps to confuse possible pests and deter problems especially if the principle of what is known as ‘Companion planting’ is applied. Here are some easy examples:
Tagetes (French marigolds) planted in amongst potatoes or tomatoes deter/kill eelworms which can badly affect these crops as the marigold roots secrete ‘thiophenes’ which eelworms do not like. Tagetes sown amongst Brassica crops not only look pretty but put off those nasty white flies that do not enjoy their perfume.
Capsicums of all kinds are far less likely to be attacked by aphids if underplanted with basil. Planting capsicums amongst your peas and beans deters fusarium wilt, an often lethal fungal disease.
Interspersing Brassicas with strongly aromatic herbs such as mint, thyme and sage can reduce the number of Cabbage white butterflies selecting to lay their eggs on the leaves, the eggs of course hatching into caterpillars with extremely voracious appetites.
Alternating rows of onions with rows of carrots helps keep onion fly off the onions and carrot fly off the carrots. Colorful nasturtiums can be used to deter white fly attacks on most vegetables.
Planting a mixture of beans and cabbages helps cabbages to remain healthy. Radish in amongst a broccoli patch can help to deter flea beetles.
However, as much of this may not catch on with those who are completely new to gardening then the best method to follow is that of a very mixed cropping pattern right to the point of interspersing your food crops with clumps of nectar rich flowers which definitely attract beneficial insects, e.g. harmless insects which prey on the nasty ones.
To achieve organic success in your garden carefully controlled diversity is a must. Helping nature to help itself is perhaps another of explaining this but, at the same time, you must not let everything get out of hand.
A healthy garden is a productive one if suitable species are grown; necessary watering is carried out on time and, even if the plot looks haphazard to the untrained eye it is kept properly maintained. Garden maintenance and strict hygiene must be enforced all year round if you want to keep problems at bay.
Immediate removal and proper disposal of weak/unhealthy plants…. not on the compost heap please!
Prompt removal of decaying or dead plant material such as fallen leaves and bird attacked fruit which can go on the compost heap if not diseased in any way.
Scrubbing garden tools after use.
Not leaving empty plant pots lying haphazardly around for ants etc to nest in.
Carrying out an almost daily damage patrol and nipping prospective problems in the bud, no pun intended, before they arise.
Generally keeping every single thing in the garden neat, tidy and clean.
Of course, no matter how many precautions you take problems will still arise but this is no reason to simply dive for whatever chemical intervention your local gardening supply shop tries to sell you. There are, in most cases, organic alternatives.
Pure unadulterated derris powder/liquid, an extract of various tropical plants, will kill off insects and caterpillars both the goodies and the baddies so should still be used with caution and will poison fish so do not use near a fishpond if you have one.
Ants, large and small, have their pros and cons in the garden. On the ‘pro’ front they help to control aphids, scale insects and mealy bugs, on the ‘cons’ side they infest plant pot and kill off young plants. They can be deterred by planting lots of strong mint, spearmint is ideal or killed by locating their nesting holes and pouring boiling water inside or, this is from personal experience and not exactly organic, mix up a strong solution of pinky (potassium permanganate), pour this down the nesting hole in full sunlight and when the ants emerge they shrivel up to nothing as a result of the suns rays reacting with the pinky!
Planting lots of chives around the garden also discourages ants.
Caterpillars should be removed by hand and squashed or, even better, squash the butterfly eggs as soon as you spot them.
Slugs and snails can be either removed by hand or, much simpler, three quarters sink something like empty yoghurt pots in the ground, half fill them with warm water, dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in this and sprinkle a little bakers yeast on top and as this ferments and gives off a wonderfully enticing, to slugs and snails, aroma, they will head for the party, climb up the pot, fall in and drown. You will need to empty the pots and replenish regularly if you have a major infestation.
Wasps can be trapped in bottles half filled with water and sugar/jam with just a small hole made in the lid and hung in fruit trees, the wasps can manage to crawl in but are not able to fly back out.
Scale insects and mealy bugs can be sprayed with good quality cooking oil, olive oil is best, to suffocate them or with a strong solution of warm coffee brewed from coffee beans (Not the instant variety), filtered and sprayed on infested plants at least once a week until the problem is solved.
Then there is good old garlic water or a solution of neem leaves and berries which control most aphid, mite and fly problems and these are easily made at home.
Garlic water: Lightly crush quarter kilo of fresh, whole, garlic cloves including skin and add to a pan containing one liter of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 15 mins. Leave to stand for at least 12 hours. Strain through fine cloth and spray. The residual garlic and be used twice more before it becomes too weak.
Neem solution: Fill a bucket with neem leaves and berries, cover with boiling water , leave to stand for at least three days stirring daily. Strain and spray as required.
Both of the above are diluted by rainfall and high humidity so repeated sprayings are beneficial. Two legged pests of the kind who climb over fences and walls to steal the fruits of your hard-earned crops should be shot on sight! Just joking…
Writer: Zahrah Nasir
5 Basic PPE and their Uses in Everyday Life
Personal Protective Equipment, commonly referred to as PPE, is equipment designed to protect a person against health and/or safety risks while performing certain tasks.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense which can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury and death in worst-case scenarios. It is often misunderstood that only those professionals doing hazardous jobs are required to use PPE. In fact, we all need protective gear to safeguard ourselves from different risks while performing everyday tasks. Here is the list of 5 basic Personal Protective Equipment and when one should use them to stay safe.
1. Eye Protection
Our eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of the body and hence prone to sustain serious and irreversible damage during an accident. Flying debris, dust particulates, chemical splashes and UV rays exposure are known to cause serious eye trauma. Safety glasses are generally inexpensive and easily available. You must wear approved eye protection while performing hazardous jobs, including but not limited to; riding a bicycle, using different machines e.g. cutter, drill, grinder, and chainsaw, etc., using commercial cleaners and other hazardous chemicals, welding, handling bio-hazardous materials and while working in a kitchen. If your work involves high risk of facial trauma, then it is recommended to wear a full-face shield.
Watch out! Make sure the safety glasses you are using are of good quality and suitable for the type of work, i.e. welding goggles could be used to watch a solar eclipse but may not protect your eyes from hazardous chemical splashes.
2. Respirator Mask
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to wear a face mask. Other than protecting yourself from viral diseases, respiratory protection should also be worn while doing different hazardous tasks to avoid acute and chronic illnesses. One should wear a suitable respirator mask during spray painting, cleaning jobs, walking or riding a bike in a polluted environment and visiting a hospital, etc. Those working in confined spaces with the presence of dangerous fumes may be required to wear an APR respirator.
Head injuries are the leading cause of disability and death. Wearing a safety helmet could make a difference between life and death during an accident. There are different types of helmets available in the market. They are designed for specific jobs, but the main purpose remains the same which is to protect your head from serious injuries. Wearing an approved safety helmet is highly recommended while riding a two-wheeler, skating, climbing, skiing, playing cricket, or any other dangerous game, and working near construction sites where there is a risk of falling objects.
4. Protective Gloves
Although hand injury is usually not lethal unlike traumatic brain injury, it could be very painful and may leave the victim disabled for weeks. Furthermore, long term exposure to hazardous substances like chemical cleaners while doing everyday tasks, cleaning dishes, for example, could cause chronic health problems. Always wear protective gloves made for the specific purpose to keep your hands safe from cuts, burns, chemical exposure, electric shock and abrasions, etc. Doing dishes and laundry, handling hazardous substances and wastes, and performing repair works are some of those jobs when you should be wearing the right kind of gloves to save your hands from nasty injuries.
5. Safe Footwear
Where a hand injury could leave you out of work, one cannot even be able to stand or walk after sustaining a serious foot injury. Feet are often overlooked as a vital part of the human body. Different kinds of workplaces may require a worker to wear a specific type of safety shoes depending on the job risk. Steel cap boots can protect you against heavy and sharp falling objects but standing on metal while working with live electric wires is a bad idea. Similarly, EH rated insulated boots are good to keep you safe from electrocution but they may not be ideal to protect your feet from dangerous chemical splashes. Nevertheless, you always need to ensure that your footwear is slip-resistant and reasonably comfortable to wear even if you do not work in a hazardous environment and not required to wear safety shoes. Slips and trips are the second most common type of fatal work-related injuries. Wearing an appropriate pair of shoes could significantly reduce the risk of slip and trip injuries. Always follow your employer’s safety guidelines to choose the best-suited footwear. So-called “fashionable” and poor quality shoes, particularly high-heels and slippery dress shoes, are a bad choice. Imagine running in those impractical shoes during an emergency evacuation. You cannot run fast and your risk of falling down the stairs would be higher while wearing high-heels or a pair of inappropriate slippery shoes.
Writer: Sultan Kiani