Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated on Wednesday Pakistan's first smart forest in Rakh Jhok Forest, Sheikhupura as part of Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, which he said would address a host of issues, contribute an estimated $40 billion to the country's economy and create around one million jobs.
According to Radio Pakistan, the smart forest project will function via sensors and a surveillance system.
Addressing the forest's inauguration ceremony, the premier dubbed the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project "one of the biggest projects in Pakistan's history”, and one that would significantly contribute to addressing environmental and other challenges faced by the country.
For this reason, he said, the project held significance for the entire country.
"This will be an exemplary project," the prime minister said. "It will change Pakistan and its environment."
Sharing more details about the smart forest, he said technology would be used to monitor the growth of almost every plant under this scheme and relevant authorities would be intimated via sensors if a tree was being cut down.
"Ten million trees will be planted [in the smart forest] through proper planning for the first time in Pakistan."
He further elaborated that Pakistan's biggest issue was water shortage and since it was among the countries most affected by climate change, planting trees and projects such as the smart forest could help address the issue.
Prime Minister Imran Khan added that the initiative, apart from increasing tree cover, would also help attract tourists.
He added that three barrages would be built on Ravi River under the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, as a result of which the level of groundwater, which was dropping, would rise and once the construction of the project was started, other related industries would also get a boost.
The premier said the project's execution was quite challenging and had it been easy, the project would have been completed by previous governments.
"But [Chief Minister Usman] Buzdar's team will complete it as they are committed to the purpose," he assured.
Addressing the chief minister, he said, "I know that your team will come across multiple challenges in the execution of this project, but you should remain prepared to address all of them and see through the project."
At the outset of his speech, the prime minister said, "If we want to leave behind a better Pakistan for our future generation, we must make our country green."
"I have seen forests being destroyed in Pakistan before my eyes," he lamented, adding that the country also suffered the loss of wildlife along with disappearing forests.
He recalled that while he was growing up in Lahore, the city's residents would get sweet water and drank tap water.
"But the pollution witnessed today in Lahore is unprecedented, posing health risks to the elderly and children, and all of the city's sewage is dumped in Ravi [River]," he said. "And since the sewage is not treated, it contaminates groundwater."
According to the prime minister, 640 million trees had been planted across Pakistan until 2013.
"Whereas we planted one billion trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between 2013 and 2018, within a span of just five years," he said, adding that his government's target was to plant 10 billion trees in the country.