KARACHI: Describing the last year’s human loss due to the heatwave as appalling, speakers at a ceremony held on Tuesday at Sandspit said there was a desperate need to create more and conserve the existing green spaces to lower city temperatures especially in summers.

They were speaking at the launch of a tree plantation campaign organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) in collaboration with the K-Electric (KE) at the Wetland Centre.

The programme started off with the plantation of 500 mangrove saplings by officials representing both organisations.

Highlighting national challenges in the face of climate change, director general of WWF-P Hammad Naqi Khan said Pakistan had the highest annual deforestation rate in Asia while its forest cover was estimated to be only 2.5 per cent of its total land area.

There was an urgent need for initiating a massive plantation drive in the metropolitan cities like Karachi which witnessed death of more than 1,000 people due to intense heatwave last year, he added.

The lack of green belts and increased concrete cover, he pointed out, had led to elevated temperature in Karachi. The situation, he said, was getting worse due to new developmental projects and housing colonies, which, he said, were threatening the existing greenery and plantation. Felling of trees would not only heighten the process of green house gas emissions but raise temperature levels and make the city more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

“Better urban planning can save life. This holds more importance in Pakistan’s case since the country is among the 10 top most vulnerable countries exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change,” he said while pointing it out that the country was not a major polluting country.

He emphasised the need for public-private partnership to promote the cause of environment in the country and said the plantation campaign was in line with last year’s agreement between the two organisations under the ‘City Challenge’ aimed at increasing green footprint of Karachi.

Chief supply chain officer at KE Eram Hasan said global warming was a serious challenge and it was about time that every individual in society played a part in coping with the issue and came up with initiatives to reduce the impact of climate change.

“In this regard, the partnership of K-Electric with the WWF is a step in the right direction. The power utility has kept its emphasis on renewable energy and is committed to lower carbon footprint through tree plantation and other such campaigns that would follow,” he said.

The KE, he told the audience, would soon hold an energy conference to support utilisation of renewable energy. ‘We hope that Karachi emerges as a major participant in this Earth Hour City Challenge and KE will provide support to this cause,’ he added.

Zehra Mehdi representing the KE said her organisation would be planting 20,000 trees in the city and exploring solar and other renewable energy opportunities for energy conservation.

Head of corporate partnerships and fundraising department at WWF-P Sania Rauf Khan also spoke.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2016