For the last two decades, Pakistan has been experiencing extreme climatic events, from super floods in 2010 to widespread rains in 2011 and a heatwave in 2015 that killed more than 1,200 people in the coastal city of Karachi. Earlier this year, the city of Nawabshah saw the hottest April temperature ever recorded on Earth. The country has also witnessed record levels of glacial melting, droughts, coastal flooding and sea erosions in recent years. In the Global Climate Risk Index 2018, Pakistan is listed as the 7th country most affected by climate change between 1997 and 2016.
These extreme climate events have not only triggered internal human migration but have also impeded economic growth and pose a serious threat to agriculture and fisheries sectors, the main source of livelihood for local communities. Freshwater resources, a lifeline to the well-being of people and economy of country, are being negatively affected. Due to the unpredictable climate, Pakistan either receives excessive water resulting from heavy rains or experiences prolonged droughts.
One of the key drivers behind these drastic climatic changes is considered to be loss of tree cover – between 2000 and 2010, Pakistan lost an average of approximately 43,000 hectares of forests every year, that's equivalent to half the size of the capital city of Islamabad.
There are many regions that have been permanently deforested. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pakistan’s deforestation rate is the highest in Asia. The effects of deforestation and tree cover loss are obvious – unpredictable weather and rainfall patterns, changes in flows of streams and a rise in air pollution, among others. In many regions, groundwater recharge has been badly affected and triggered water scarcity, making local people more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
To increase tree cover and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change, WWF-Pakistan launched a large-scale tree planting drive on Pakistan’s Independence Day – August 14, 2018 with a pledge to plant 1.4 million trees by August 13, 2019 across the country. People and organizations from across the country participated in the campaign, called Rung Do Pakistan (paint Pakistan). The aim of the campaign is to involve citizens and demonstrate that simple acts such as planting trees can bring big benefits for all. The campaign is aimed at contributing towards the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
WWF’s analysis shows that a single tree has the ability to absorb 50 lbs of carbon dioxide each year. Trees also provide us with natural oxygen, help regular the water cycle, and offer many services ranging from livelihood support to local communities to providing shelter to many species of wildlife. They are also extremely important because they maintain theatmospheric temperature and work as natural safeguards against floods, soil erosion and other natural disasters. These giant green creatures cause no harm but only contribute to deliver trillions of benefits to the mothernature.
Soon after WWF’s campaign, the new government of Pakistan initiated a drive titled Plant for Pakistan with a commitment to plant 10 billion trees in the next five years.
In a country where tree cover is less than 3 per cent of the land and where climate change is wreaking havoc on the lives of people, it is imperative to help bring back tree cover and engage citizens in these efforts. Our campaign will not only help revive lost green cover, it is also meant to instill a love for the environment and increase awareness about the impacts of climate change among the public. Only by working together can we paint the country green to prevent future catastrophic climatic events.