LAHORE: A draft urban and peri-urban forest policy suggests binding owners of 12 acres or more to reserve one acre of their respective lands for forestation, while those owning less than 12 acres should grow at least 10 trees per acre.
The draft policy shared with the civil society recently recommends various steps for increasing the forest cover from the present three per cent in the province. It sets tree canopy target of 5pc for streets, 10pc for urban and 15pc for peri-urban areas. It calls for observing one tree per 10 metre rule in city streets, along roads, in housing societies, and other facilities of public and private sector.
The policy proposes that in line with best international practices every public or private sector owner having more than 12 acres of land should be made to reserve one acre for every 12 acres for forest. For smaller land owners, 10 trees per acre should be mandatory.
Draft policy envisages steps to increase forest cover
Similarly, every existing or new housing society, 2.5pc of its 7pc mandatory open space should be reserved for forestation with tree species to be set by the department concerned in line with the regional requirements.
Prepared by the Urban Unit of the Planning & Development Department, the draft policy asked horticulture authorities and forest department to incentivise and capacitate the existing nurseries and set up new ones supplying local species of saplings, promoting urban agriculture in a way that does not hurt local ecosystem, use of public buildings like schools, hospitals, canal banks, highways and railway tracks to harness the potential of urban trees.
It also prescribes incentives for rooftop vegetation like direct grants/subsidies, research and guidelines on waterproofing, lightweight growing medium, filter cloth, and setting their standards.
It recommends enacting a law covering urban forestry, which so far lacks any legal protection and thus public and private sector land developers continue to chop of trees with impunity, and preparing guidelines for plantation, conservation and removal of trees.
For protecting biodiversity, it identifies 10 base selection criterion for adaptability to urban conditions. These include species’ ability to respond to drought, heat, wind and pollution, and the species’ lifespan, pathogen and pest susceptibility and manageability, effect on community health and allergies, the degree and quality of shade cast, maintenance requirements and extent of tree litter produced.
The draft policy also underlines the need for developing a management information system for tracking the available trees inventory, allowing monitoring the tree plantar driver and follows-up on the growth and well-being of the new plantations.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019