Celebrating National Plantation Day to meaningfully address climate change
Dr. Farrukh A. Chishtie
Forests and greenery play a crucial role in mitigating disasters and extreme weather events by acting as natural dampening mechanisms. These majestic trees not only safeguard mountains and lands from collapse but also help reduce flood damage. Furthermore, they actively combat climate change, the most significant challenge to humanity's survival.
The burning of fossil fuels is the primary driver of air pollution and climate change, leading to alarming trends in global warming. This dangerous human activity releases greenhouse gases that trap solar radiation in the atmosphere, causing abnormal shifts in weather and intensifying natural disasters.
Massive deforestation is the second leading cause exacerbating these dangerous effects. Forests, through photosynthesis, absorb carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, and release oxygen, purifying the air. Forests act as vital carbon dioxide sinks, nurturing the food chain and protecting us from the harmful impacts of air pollution and global warming. The consequences of deforestation, such as prolonged and intense droughts and flooding, significantly damage economies, including that of Pakistan. And with coming days, these disasters are only going to get worse, if we, both individually and as a nation, do not act now.
Active afforestation drives should be supplemented by education, emphasizing the protective benefits of trees and greenery against calamities. Establishing a disaster-resilient nation requires long-term measures and strengthening ecosystems to defend against threats like locust invasions while ensuring sustainable development for all. A way forward in this would be to involve our citizens to curb deforestation in a “National Day of Plantation”.
National Day of Plantation
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 till Pakistan is truly clean and green. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) states: “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).
Designating a "National Day for Plantation" and seasonal plantation events involving the population will rejuvenate Pakistan and foster unity for a just cause. Coordinating bodies and government support are crucial in ensuring successful implementation. Legislative backing and awareness campaigns, promoting the planting of indigenous and local trees, are essential for lasting impact.
Involvement of the media in promoting the spirit of festivity for plantation drives can create a sense of national interest and participation. Alongside government departments, local authorities, and civic organizations, the public must actively engage in planting and sustaining trees at individual and community levels.
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 spring season is in March, it should be declared now for August, 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.
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 media should be involved at a large scale in bringing up the spirit of festivity for this day and for plantation drives in its vicinity. Hence, state media and information ministries should be involved to project plantation as the mainstay of celebration this spring plantation season. Special programs, songs, talk shows, dramas and spots should be made and aired so that people are not caught by surprise as to what the Government is trying to do. The cause should be promoted as one of national interest.
There should also be an awareness campaign for informing people on planting indigenous and local trees which should be initiated in parallel with the ‘bringing up the spirit of festivity’ step so that people are prepared before the season begins in February. Open spaces should be arranged by local governments so that people have a place to plant the saplings. In addition, these authorities should promote plantation of indigenous or local trees citing their importance as well as overall benefit to the planet as well as Pakistan.
The Forest Department and the local governments should implement such programs and it is pertinent to mention that manpower under Government Departments should be fully involved. Of special help can be scouts, forest officials, horticulture departments and educators in this respect. To provide water for plantation, septic tanks should be installed for the purpose of recycling sewage water. New plants require relatively cleaner water that what is being used by city authorities now.
On the “National Day for Plantation”, all allied ministries, departments and institutions should plant at least 1,000 trees and sustain them. This will set an example for the public to follow. Ministers and Secretaries should be made directly responsible for this plantation. Forest and Local Government Departments should assist the people in plantation by setting up camps where plants can be distributed, and instructions given on sustaining trees. Pictorial print material in Urdu should be made and distributed with the plants.
The rest of the campaign should focus on involving people at the grass roots level. 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.
The vexing question is: Why does this level of awareness and care for the environment not catch on at the majority scale? It is because we are simply not aware of its impact on our daily lives and this ignorance oftentimes allows us the luxury to take it for granted. Thus, most of are not involved towards the required care towards our natural gifts and hence the work of many caring individuals is diluted as a result. It should also be noted that taking care of our natural resources needs to be sustained across generations and the youth should lead the charge. It cannot happen overnight, however the spark of our youth towards such care will spread to our wider populace, otherwise we are bound to lose our existing green cover amongst many other such natural assets.
Deforestation must be stopped!
Deforestation, the widespread removal of trees and forests, is a critical environmental issue that significantly contributes to climate change and its associated consequences. The loss of forest cover disrupts the delicate balance of the Earth's ecosystem and exacerbates global warming, leading to severe weather events such as floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures. In 2022, Pakistan witnessed devastating monsoon floods which affected more than 33 million people, a clear manifestation of the interplay between deforestation and climate change.
Forests play a vital role in regulating the Earth's climate by acting as carbon sinks. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the greenhouse effect. As deforestation continues at an alarming rate worldwide, these natural carbon sinks are diminishing, leading to an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This excessive concentration of greenhouse gases traps heat, causing the planet's temperature to rise, leading to climate change.
The consequences of climate change are increasingly evident across the globe, and Pakistan is not immune to its impacts. One of the most devastating consequences is the intensification of extreme weather events, particularly floods. In recent years, Pakistan has experienced a rise in the frequency and severity of monsoon floods, leading to catastrophic loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure, and disruption of livelihoods.
The link between deforestation and monsoon floods is profound. Healthy forests act as natural buffers against heavy rainfall, slowing down water flow and allowing the soil to absorb excess water. However, deforestation disrupts this process, resulting in increased surface runoff and the rapid flow of water, which exacerbates the intensity of floods. Moreover, the loss of trees reduces the soil's ability to hold water, making it more susceptible to erosion and landslides during heavy rainfall events.
In 2022, Pakistan faced a devastating monsoon season that led to catastrophic floods. The loss of forest cover and inadequate water management infrastructure in the country played a significant role in exacerbating the impacts of these floods. The floods not only caused widespread damage to homes, crops, and infrastructure but also resulted in the loss of many lives and left thousands of people displaced.
Furthermore, deforestation contributes to climate change, which in turn affects monsoon patterns. Changing climate conditions alter atmospheric circulation patterns, leading to shifts in monsoon rainfall patterns. This can lead to more intense and prolonged monsoon seasons, further increasing the risk of flooding.
To mitigate the impact of deforestation and climate change on monsoon floods, urgent action is required. First and foremost, there is a need to prioritize reforestation and afforestation efforts. Planting new trees and protecting existing forests can help restore the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and improve the resilience of ecosystems to extreme weather events. This can be reliably achieved through a “National Day of Plantation.”
Additionally, improved water management practices are crucial for mitigating the impact of floods. Investments in flood control infrastructure, such as dams, levees, and reservoirs, can help regulate water flow and reduce the severity of floods during monsoon seasons.
Public awareness and education about the importance of forests and their role in climate regulation are also essential. Governments and environmental organizations should collaborate to raise awareness about the consequences of deforestation and the urgency of climate action.
In conclusion, deforestation is a significant driver of climate change, which, in turn, leads to intensified monsoon floods and other extreme weather events. Pakistan's 2022 monsoon floods are a stark reminder of the need to address deforestation and its impacts on climate change. Sustainable forest management, afforestation, and improved water management practices are key to mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing the risk of devastating floods in the future. It is a collective responsibility to protect our forests and combat climate change to safeguard the well-being of current and future generations.
Raising awareness and fostering care for the environment, especially among the youth, is vital for sustained efforts towards conserving natural resources. Pakistan's green cover and other natural assets can only be preserved through collective and continuous action, driven by a sense of responsibility for our planet's well-being.
The destruction of forests has been a key factor in the increased devastation caused by recent natural calamities. For instance, mangrove forests, which were cut down for short-term economic gains, could have mitigated the impact of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Similarly, wetlands in New Orleans acted as natural buffers against storm surges before they were eliminated for development projects.
To comprehensively address climate change impacts, disaster risk reduction plans must be developed. Long-term mitigation strategies are essential alongside short-term recovery measures to prevent greater losses from occurring. Tree plantation and environmental care have emerged as effective strategies due to their natural protection mechanisms, which also entail lower costs during natural disasters.
Developing nations, like Pakistan, can significantly contribute to climate change mitigation by actively engaging in tree plantation efforts. Efforts to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels should continue, but planting trees offers a more achievable target due to its lower economic cost and ease of implementation.