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Daily Times Editorial 11 August 2020

Tree plantation drive


Up to 3.5 million saplings have been planted on Sunday under a country-wide tree plantation campaign across the country in a single day to improve the country’s environmental index besides meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of having a billion tree plants in the country. Over the decades, the country has lost chunks of forests, which were developed and grown in the pre-Partition time, to the timber mafia with the connivance of corrupt forest division officials. This is the first time a government has launched a plantation on such a large scale and this long battle has been taken to save posterity from the effects of climate change and global warming. The footprints of climate change have shown their destructive signs in the country and now Pakistan is among 10 most vulnerable countries to impacts of global warming. The bizarre weather patterns have threatened the country’s food security. In the spring last, unprecedented rain systems and hailstorms have wreaked havoc on the ready-to-reap wheat crop causing a huge fall to the per acre yield. Now, the country, which has been housing surplus wheat stocks since 2009, has to import wheat to meet the domestic consumption. This time, the plantation campaign had the active role of government-sponsored Tiger Force but people from all walks of life participated in the campaign in maximum numbers. The government is making important and meaningful strides towards a green Pakistan. Provincial governments have offered incentives to landowners to fill their empty spaces with trees. Side by side, the ‘Protected Areas Initiative’ has been initiated to strengthen 15 national parks and protected areas.
More alarming is the World Bank report that has identified certain districts in Punjab and Sindh which will be not fit for living by 2050 if trees are not planted there. The government should involve international environmental bodies in the tree campaigns to make them transparent and meaningful. What will be the good of such campaigns if they end up with acres of invasive and anti-environment species? Hopefully, the planted saplings will be mature trees in the coming months and years and will help the country to counter the losses incurred due to climate change. The Geremenwatch 2020 report states Pakistan suffered 9,989 deaths and economic losses of $3.8 billion due to more than 300 extreme weather events in the last 20 years due to changing weather patterns. Hopefully, the tree plantation campaigns will bring about positive changes to climate as well as economy.


Flooding and rescue planning


Why does it happen every time that the rainy season catches governments – federal, provincial and local – napping and leaves a trail of death and destruction? The fresh spell of torrential rains has created a flood-like situation in 15 districts of Balochistan, leaving them cut off from the remaining parts of the province. Besides human loss, the spell has wreaked havoc on communication means as road link between Quetta and other areas of the country has been suspended after some bridges were damaged at the national highways. This speaks volume to the quality of the construction work done on national highways. The provincial government must initiate a probe into the construction quality of roads and bridges. Of the 15 districts badly-hit in the rains, the most affected districts are Nasirabad, Sibi, Bolan and Jhal Magsi where thousands of people in over 300 villages have been stranded. And not to mention the lack of relief work in these districts. Hundreds of cattle have also been swept away by the floodwater in Kachhi, Sibi and Bolan districts. Now, the army has been called out to provide relief and rescue in the flooded districts. Like Balochistan, the Sindh government has also been caught napping in the flood and rain season as the Kachho area of Dadu district has been cut off from the rest of the country and now army teams have launched rescue operations. No one can fight Mother Nature’s fury but in the age of weather forecast and better technology, we can put up a plan to combat natural disasters. The Sindh Disaster Management Authority has yet to reach the disaster-hot areas to carry out rescue and relief operations. More rain will hit the provinces but in the first, the departments must restore traffic between Quetta and other parts of the country. The Met office has forecast more rains in different areas of Balochistan. The fresh spell has battered Balochistan in the last two days with 246mm rain.
Away from interior Sindh and Balochistan, where the national media has least outreach and interest, all eyes are always focused on the urban parts of Sindh. When it rains in Karachi and Sindh and rainwater takes time to drain out, media and courts besides politicians show extra energy to address the issue. It is time that all parts of Pakistan be given equal attention in terms of funds allocation and preparation to meet eventualities.
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