ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Climate Change is likely to miss its target of planting 250 million saplings in the spring season as the ambitious plantation drive has come to an almost complete halt across the country.

“Until last week pictures were flowing in from every corner of the country of some activity or the other of the plantation drive. Now our Whatsapp group has gone quiet,” a senior official in the ministry told Dawn.

In the last week of February, the ministry had announced an aggressive plan to plant 250 million saplings as well as populate bare pieces of lands in and around cities.

The ministry maintains that forests have been recognised as the most effective and cheapest way to tackle the fallout of global warming-caused climate change on the socioeconomic sectors, particularly agriculture, water, energy and health,

We are likely to miss the target especially if coronavirus restrictions continue, says official

The national spring plantation drive was inaugurated by the prime minister by planting a sapling in one of the country’s oldest Kundian forest areas.

The drive was to continue across the country till June 30 under the theme of ‘Restoration of degraded forests’ under the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme.

The ministry had set itself a target of planting around 250 million saplings for the spring 2020 season.

Trees help protect soil from degradation and regulate water on farms, mitigate floods, regulate weather and enrich biodiversity. Besides, crops grown in agro-forestry systems are often more resilient to drought, excess rain and erratic weather patterns, the official in the ministry said.

“We have had very good rains and the land is just ready for tree plantation. But with the lockdown and restrictions on public gatherings, we are likely to miss our target of planting so many saplings, especially if the restrictions continue longer,” the official said.

While the ministry and provincial forest departments have till June after which the weather will be too warm and dry, the official said plantation activities cannot be rushed or sped up to ensure survival of the saplings.

The hills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are alive with newly-planted saplings after Pakistan hit its billion tree goal in August 2017 - months ahead of schedule.

The massive Billion Tree Tsunami added 350,000 hectres of trees, both by planting and natural regeneration, in an effort to restore the province’s depleted forests and fight the effects of climate change.

The World Economic Forum encouraged other nations to follow the example set by Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020

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