Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that the annual smog in Lahore was a hazardous threat to public health and quality of life and the government would now seek to reverse the environmental neglect that Lahore had faced during its urban development.
The prime minister was addressing the inauguration of the Spring Plantation 2021, which was kicked off from Jilani Park and would ultimately target the plantation of 51 sites of Miyawaki urban forests in Lahore.
"The forest cover of Lahore has been reduced by 70 per cent in the last 12-13 years," said the premier, due to which Lahore now faced the issue of smog particularly during the month of February. "If this kind of consistent smog remains, it reduces the [average] lifespan by 6-11 years."
Terming it a "silent killer", the prime minister said people ignored the existence of smog since the damage it causes can't be seen immediately. He said it posed a serious threat to health since the fine chemicals in smog affect the lungs and brains of children and the elderly with "serious consequences".
"Global research has shown that you can't quantify the long term effects of smog on society," he said, adding that the government would now set out to reverse the effects of environmental neglect during Lahore's urban development.
He said the government would have to do a lot of efforts in this regard and hailed the choosing of the 51 sites for the Miyawaki urban forestry project as "an amazing first step". He said the particular advantage of this project was in the speed at which forests could be grown — 10-20 years instead of 50 years.
Addressing the ceremony, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said that the plantation of forests at the sites would be completed by March. He also noted that there was no other option to fight off smog and climate change than urban forestry wherever land was available.
"It will give [more] oxygen which will clean the atmosphere," said the premier.
The prime minister urged the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), which is heading the project, to increase the visibility and publicity of the forestry projects so they could see tangible signs of growth and success. "The people of Lahore want for there to be greenery, forestry and trees because everyone knows the negative consequences of environmental pollution."
"Today we have started our Spring Plantation according to our target of 10 billion trees all over Pakistan."
The prime minister emphasised that "the whole nation should be involved in this [project]" since it was a matter of the next generation's future. He particularly pointed out and suggested that students from schools and universities should be involved in the forestry project where they could be assigned zones for responsibility of protecting and maintaining trees. "It is important for the children to be involved in this because we are doing all this for the future."
Miyawaki urban forests
Miyawaki is a method invented by 93-year-old Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, an expert in plant bionetwork, specialist in seeds and study of natural forests. He is active worldwide as a professional in the restoration of natural vegetation on degraded land. The technique helps build dense and native forests. The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
Following the method, in a bid to develop urban forests for improving the deteriorating environmental situation in Lahore, the PHA had started work on the project last year and it was partially funded by the private sector. The authority identified 51 locations in populated areas where indigenous trees and shrubs were planted by preparing ground/soil without the use of chemicals, pesticide or fertilisers.
As per the Miyawaki method, 1,125 plants are being planted per kanal at all locations geotagged already.
The 51 sites where forests are being developed include Jilani Park, Bahria Park, Township, Pathrowonwali Park, Arjun Road and Bilal Park in Green Town, Qarshi Park, Ghalib Market Park, Main Park, Main Boulevard and Aslam Riaz Park in Gulberg, Block H-1 Park, Phase II, Sabzazaar, Block E-1 Masjid Ya Rasool Allah Park, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Saggian Park 1, Jallo Botanical Garden, Canal Road (Harbanspura to Fatehgarh), Jallo to BRB Canal, Tajbagh, Triangle Park near the railway station, Sher Shah Block Park, Garden Town, Main Park of Shadman Market, Wasa Office, Shadman, Gulshan-i-Ravi Park, Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Kareem Block and Moon Market parks in Allama Iqbal Town, Ayubia Market Park, Muslim Town, B-1 Block Park, Johar Town, International Market M-block, Model Town Extension, Canal Road, greenbelt Fatehgarh to Harbanspura, Circular Garden, Rewaz Garden, Family Park, Faisal Town, Qainchi Park Ferozepur Road, Greater Iqbal Park, G-1 Market Johar Town, Begum Kot Triangle Shahdara and Halloki interchange.