A Huge Tree-Planting Initiative is Preserving Dignity and Nature

Pakistan is creating jobs and protecting its natural surroundings with tree planting.

May 7, 2020

As the world hunkers down during COVID-19, one nation is going green — Pakistan’s unemployed are outside planting trees. The country’s “10 Billion Tree Tsunami Program” is now in full force, even though most tree-planting campaigns across the world have been halted. Pakistan’s initiative is creating much-needed jobs while helping the environment.

This program was initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018, and in just two years, 60,000 jobs have been created and 30 million indigenous trees planted. However, with nine million Pakistanis laid off due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the government has decided to act. As opposed to giving handouts to the unemployed, it is creating jobs for the hungry, providing Pakistanis with dignity. The government program employs mostly women and young people from rural areas, and aspires to plant 50 million trees in 2020.

With the country still in lockdown, roads are eerily empty except for trucks transporting trees. The newly employed tree planters, wearing protective masks and respecting social distancing regulations, have permission to leave their villages. These “jungle workers” look after tree nurseries, plant saplings, guard existing forests and act as forest firefighters.

This work is essential. With only six percent of its land covered by trees, Pakistan is “forest poor”.

And even though it’s not a big player in creating greenhouse gases, the Global Climate Risk Index of 2020 has put Pakistan as the fifth country hardest hit by climate change.

From 1999 through 2018, the country has experienced over 150 extreme weather events. These include severe droughts, flooding and increases in temperatures. These catastrophes have cost Pakistan $3.8 billion.

The logical answer is the tree planting program. Not only does it save many of the unemployed from turning to begging, it protects the country from weather disasters. Trees are carbon elimination engines as they absorb carbon monoxide emissions. Forests help prevent flooding because tree roots make the soil porous, and aside from providing cooling shade, trees lower the outside temperature when their leaves release water. Trees also protect biodiversity, providing shelter for wildlife as well as protecting endangered species.

To date, 15,000 acres have been planted near Islamabad, and many mulberry, moringa and acacia forests have been planted on government-owned plots in the Punjab province. In the past, this tree-planting project has finished mid-May, but given the importance of employing people in these times, it will continue until the end of June.

Pakistan’s green stimulus project could be a beacon of green light to all industrialized nations. As the world now tries to recover economically from COVID-19, the approach should be environmentally-friendly. On April 20, 2020, environment ministers from 30 countries met virtually for the Petersberg Climate Dialogue XI. This was thanks to the “Thomson Reuters Foundation” the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.

Over two days, they discussed the implementation of a green economic recovery. At the conference, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, called for “a new integrated economic approach with climate change action and social protection for the financially vulnerable at its center, including a global fund to support the poor.”

Scientists report that due to the coronavirus, global carbon emissions have already dropped from four to 11 percent and may continue to drop in 2021. There has never been a better time to enact positive environmental change, and if we turn to Pakistan as our mentor, we see how easy it is to heal. It starts with planting trees.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.