ISLAMABAD: The 100 acres of forest cleared in the Margalla Hills National Park in Shakarparian for a cricket stadium will be rehabilitated, and Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to plant a sapling there to launch the monsoon tree plantation drive today (Monday).

Ministry of Climate Change Deputy Director Media Mohammad Saleem told Dawn that Mr Khan was displeased with the destruction of trees to build a stadium.

“The land was retrieved on orders from the Supreme Court. Now, the prime minister will plant a sapling to contribute to the restoration of retrieved forest land,” he said.

The government’s monsoon plantation drive, during which it aims to plant 500,000 saplings in the capital, is expected to continue until mid-October.

Mr Saleem said government departments, civil society and students will plant 200,000 saplings on Monday.

As part of the campaign, the government has also set up kiosks across the twin cities where citizens can acquire saplings. The plantation drive will target parks, roadsides and other open spaces.

“It is estimated that an additional 500,000 saplings will be planted in Islamabad throughout the monsoon with the help of the private sector, housing societies, educational institutes, corporate sector and business community etc to match the target of 1.1 million for the spring plantation earlier this year,” Mr Saleem said.

The drive in Islamabad is part of the national monsoon tree plantation campaign, under the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme that Mr Khan will inaugurate on Aug 18. The total programme will cost Rs125 billion, of which Rs7bn was approved by the prime minister for 2019.

Air University also began a tree plantation campaign in Pir Sohawa, on the Margalla Hills, on Sunday. Some 4,000 seed balls were spread throughout the area, with university students focusing specifically on areas damaged by recent forest fires. Participants also collected garbage and plastic bags from the hills.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2019