–WWF-Pakistan DG suggests government should develop urban forests across country
–RESTORE CEO Bilal Chaudhry says even small urban forests have unfathomable environmental, social, economic benefits
LAHORE: Experts have said that the vulnerability of heat islands can be minimised by promoting urban forestry in the county and the government should take positive steps in this regard as the mechanism would prove helpful in mitigating the impacts of global warming even more than that of tree plantation drives.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, they said that urban forestry was the need of the hour as the menace of global warming was looming while posing different environmental challenges to different countries, including Pakistan.
According to the United Nations, countries must have a forest cover of at least 25 per cent of their total land and cities must have a forest cover of 10 per cent. Another report states that wood fuel provides 40 per cent of today’s global renewable energy supply and almost 900 million people, mostly in developing countries, are engaged in the wood-energy sector.
“Since the creation of Pakistan, authorities have been reluctant to control deforestation. According to a report of the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Pakistan has less than 2.2 per cent total land that is forested. However, another report indicates that country has even less than 1.91 per cent forest cover, which is devastating,” they said.
“With deforestation at a rise in the country, the urban forest cover has decreased rapidly within the past three decades,” experts added and maintained the rapid deforestation in the country had welcomed urban heat islands and an example of it was the deadly heatwaves in Karachi during the past two years.
Worldwide Fund-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) Director General Hammad Naqi Khan believes that decreasing forest cover is one of the major reasons behind increasing global warming and Pakistan was also experiencing its vulnerability. “Urban areas around the globe are considered the most affected by global warming and these effects have also threatened Pakistan. During the past few years, different cities of the country have been facing threats of urban heat islands, which are caused due to massive deforestation,” he added.
Khan continued that forests, undoubtedly, played a key role in the battle against climate change while also contributing to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and humidity in the air. “Unfortunately, massive tree chopping, unabated construction work and decreasing wetlands in urban areas have welcomed the effects of urban heat islands.”
At the time when the government has initiated its ‘Green Pakistan’ project, Khan suggested that it should devise a strategy to develop urban forests across the country. “WWF has repeatedly proposed to spare its vacant lands to develop urban forests,” he said and added that the government, for the purpose, should encourage the corporate sector.
College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) Principal Sajid Rashid said that instead of planting trees with traditional methods, developing urban forests in cities could prove more helpful to achieve environmental sustainability. “Although cities do not have many vacant lands left to develop forests on, urban forests can be developed on any small piece of vacant land,” he said and added that many countries in the world were encouraging urban forests to mitigate the effects of global warming.
Bilal A Chaudhry, the chief executive officer (CEO) of RESTORE, a company providing end-to-end services for fast-growing urban forests consisting of native species, said that at the time when urban areas of the country were facing more challenges regarding environmental degradation, such issues could easily be dealt with through urban forestry.
Inspired by the works of renowned urban forest entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma, Bilal said that the company had developed a score of such forests in Lahore and other cities of the country. “These reduce heat island effects and bring sustainability to the ecosystem,” he said and added that trees grew more rapidly in these kinds of forests than those planted in traditional ways.
Speaking of the procedure of development of urban forests, he informed this scribe that RESTORE grew them professionally, starting with soil analysis for each chosen site. “A unique recipe of biomass is formulated in combination with other organic matter to prepare the forest floor at a depth of up to 3 feet. The plantation methodology and material used results in a multi-layered forest that grows 10 times faster as compared to usual tree plantation; it is 30 times denser, attracts lots of birds and pollinators and becomes 100 per cent sustainable after a maximum of 2 years of watering and de-weeding.”
Bilal further said that unlike conventional plantation, these forests could be grown in spaces as small as 100 Sq m and provide a number of environmental, social and economic benefits, including the production of an abundant amount of oxygen, sequestering of CO2 and pollutants such as PM2.5 as well as cooling of the ambient temperature.