Pakistan And Countries Around The Globe Must Win The Fight To Save Our Environment

On June 5 of this year, Pakistan, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), hosted World Environment Day. Being asked to be the global host for this annual event, which has been held for the past four decades and participated in by more than 100 countries, was an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s progress in ecosystem restoration – most notably in reforestation.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UNEP said “Pakistan has shown real leadership in efforts to restore the country’s forests; we are grateful for their commitment to host World Environment Day 2021 and lead the charge for all nations to restore our damaged ecosystems through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”

Pakistan Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam expressed Pakistan’s willingness to “lead that charge.” He stated “The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to playing a leadership role in addressing the issue of climate change, including through the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Initiative (TBTTI), which will restore and enhance over 1 million hectares of forest across the country. We are honored to host this year's World Environment Day and lend our support to global restoration efforts."

Pakistan launched the TBTTI in 2014 with the goal of planting/regenerating more than 3.2 billion trees during Phase I. According to the recently released Economic Survey of Pakistan, to date 350 million trees and 814.6 million plants have been planted across the country.

Other countries have been inspired by Pakistan’s leadership in the reforestation arena. For example, Saudi Arabia’s recently announced “Go Green” initiative resembles the TBTTI. The kingdom plans to plant 10 billion trees in the country and almost 50 billion trees in the Middle East region. The Saudi Arabia initiative has similar purposes to TBTTI including combating climate change, enhancing water resources, decreasing CO2 emissions and protecting the environment.

TBTTI will enable Pakistan to revive its forest and wildlife resources. It will also contribute to the preservation of atmospheric health, lowering cases of random floods, and reducing rain, greenhouse gas effects and floods. In addition to the climate change impact, it is projected that the TBTTI will have other benefits such as creating an estimated 1.5 million jobs, stimulating community projects and development, and generating eco-tourism.

Pakistan has other polices directed at improving the environment. They include converting 60% of the energy mix to make it clean and green by 2030 and shifting 30% of road vehicles to electric vehicles.

In spite of the progress and plans, there is still much that needs to be done for environment and ecosystem restoration in Pakistan including cutting carbon emission from coal power plants, installing proper waste management, and water conservation.

Add to this the fact that: Sprawling housing projects across the country along with rising poverty are causing uncontrolled logging in many parts of the country. Poor quality public transport, use of wood and coal for fuel in rural parts of Pakistan are big sources of carbon emission. Winter Smog, caused by toxic fumes emitted from thousands of brick kilns in Punjab, covers the provincial capital Lahore and major cities every year affecting the daily lives and health of citizens

Another environmental degradation factor is the absence of proper systems to fight forest fires and controlled use of pesticide for agricultural needs. The Economic Survey reported that “All these issues threaten the survival of species, people’s livelihoods and undermine the vital services that forests provide.”

To sum it up, Pakistan has many opportunities and challenges in restoring its ecosystem. Imran Khan’s government recognizes that and has been focusing on addressing Pakistan’s environmental problem areas.

Among other things, it has introduced "zigzag" methods of kiln production to lower smoke levels. "There are 359 industrial units contributing to pollution in Lahore that are being monitored now. The zigzag technology was introduced for brick kilns some years ago and 33% of the brick kilns have already been converted to the technology," said Muhammad Ali Ijaz, a senior official at Pakistan's Environmental Protection Agency.

Unfortunately, Pakistan, like many countries in the developing world, does not have sufficient resource or the technological capabilities to deal with its environmental problems and implement its ecosystem restoration efforts. They need assistance from the developed nations to combat climate change.

This is one of the points that Prime Minister Imran Khan made when speaking on World Environment Day. In his remarks, Khan asserted, "Pakistan's contribution to global warming and climate change is minimal. Rich countries, which contribute significantly more, have a greater responsibility to provide funds to ones like ours so that we can fight climate change,"

In my opinion, Prime Minister Khan’s perspective is correct. The developed nations should reach out and assist the developing nations.

The support could take many forms such as:

  • Provision of green finance to support establishing the foundation of ecosystem restoration and initiating projects for environmental protection.

  • Transfer of technology to help alleviate pollution and carbon emission, control solid and industrial waste management, and enhance eco-friendly energy sources.

  • Capacity building of officials, departments, communities and individuals, working for environmental protection.

In conclusion, a well-known saying goes “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In this 21st century, as climate change continues to run rampant around the globe and trees disappear, there may be no forests. If there are no forests, there will be no earth or world as we know it.

That is why this is a fight we must all be in together. President Joe Biden of the United States of America understands this and the reason he hosted the international Earth Day Summit in Washington, DC, on April 22 to unify major nations in the climate change combat.

This is a time to plant trees individually and collectively. And, to ask of others who do not join in this battle, what trees do you plant? These are the actions and question that are necessary to ensure a sustainable global ecosystem for Pakistan, the United States and the world.

Frank F. Islam is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal.