KARACHI: The standing committee on environment of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) organised a meeting on monsoon tree plantation with support of the provincial forest department and the ministry of climate change on Wednesday.

The meeting held at the Federation House here was also streamed live via Zoom.

Speaking on the occasion, patron of the Businessmen Panel and convener utilities of the FPCCI Mian Zahid Hussain said that launched in 2014, the Billion Tree Tsunami was the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and it had changed the environment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

And now there is Clean and Green Pakistan, which is also his vision of taking the successful model of the Billion Tree Tsunami to the entire country. “This is not a political movement. It is part of our mission to clean our environment,” he said.

He said that things were pretty bad in Sindh as far as the environment is concerned.

Plantation drives in Karachi will soon change the concrete jungle and improve biodiversity

“Untreated sewage, including industrial waste is going into the sea, solid waste is left out on the roads, solid waste is also burned causing hazardous smoke, the roads need more greenery, etc. The Clean and Green Pakistan movement is a much-needed initiative. Besides, it will create 60,000 jobs along with helping the environment,” he said.

Raw sewage has turned blue sea into brown

Naeem Qureshi, the convenor of the central standing committee on environment who also moderated the event, observed that because of sending untreated waste to the sea, our sea is no longer blue. “It is brown, which if not taken care of, may also become black soon,” he said.

Forest Secretary Abdur Rahim Soomro shared some of the things that the government was doing to improve the environment in Sindh.

“The Benazir Park in Clifton had gone dry so we reached out to the private sector to help turn it green again. We are also trying our hand at several urban plantation drives. This way the Lyari Expressway is also going to become green right up to Sohrab Goth as we work there too in phases. We are inviting the private sector to plant the trees, perhaps as their corporate social responsibility. On our part, we can put their company board there,” he said.

He added that the government would soon be starting plantation drives around the Malir river and Shah Faisal Colony No 2 as well. “It will all add to our changing this concrete jungle and improve biodiversity here,” he added.

About the mangroves, he said that what they have done at Keti Bandar should be seen to be believed. “Our one-day plantation drives have created world records, earning us place in the Guinness Book of World Records. We have planted 2.1 billion saplings there by now thanks to collaborations with the World Wildlife Fund and other NGOs,” he said.

He also reminded that Clean and Green Pakistan was a project worth Rs125bn and Sindh got Rs2.5bn out of it.

“With that money and through collaborations we are planting trees in Sindh’s big and small cities from Karachi to Kashmore. We did urban plantation on 10 acres of land in Sindh University, we did the same at Mehran University on five acres of land. We are making green hospitals, schools, jails. There is plantation under way in Badin, in Khairpur, in Sukkur. In Sukkur we created an urban forest on 95 acres of land,” he said.

‘Tree cutting equivalent to murder’

About the complaints regarding wood cutting, he said that they were retrieving acres of encroached forest land to stop that. “We see cutting of trees equivalent to murder. We are doing regeneration in the flood plains of Sindh where our men go unarmed to plant saplings. We have cultivated a sustainable forest in Nawabshah. We have started giving biogas plants to the forest community so that they cut less trees for wood and all things are helping the ecosystem,” he said.

Retired Brigadier Tariq Qadir of Engro Energy pointed out that the coal-powered plants are not the monsters as they were thought to be.

“In energy we don’t have foreign reserves. We have to buy barrel oil to make power by spending dollars. So it is better to generate our own power from local sources,” he said.

He continued: “The families living in Tharparkar on whose land we built the plants have been made shareholders and they will reap big benefits from the power generation for some 30 years. Besides, normally three trees are to be planted if one tree is cut down but Engro has decided to plant 10 for each tree that is cut. Sindh’s biggest plant nursery is also in Thar. People used to say about the Gorano reservoir or dam that it will ruin the ecosystem in the area but there are fish there now along with so many migratory birds at the 170 acres of land where we built a park. You also find peacocks and deer there,” he said.

Pakistan International Airlines’ official Shoaib Dahri also talked about how they have started planting 2,000 trees in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Airport Security Force in the more than 1,000 acres of airport land.

“We are looking to achieve our target between August 1 and September 10,” he said, adding that they have already joined hands with several NGOs to build parks, including a ladies park and making mosques and schools green.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020