As deforestation has ramped up, Earth’s climate has changed significantly. With that, the adverse climate is creating more difficult growing conditions for forest ecosystems. Therefore, tree plantation is the urgent need of the hour.
The manifold benefits of trees include that they play a pivotal role in the maintenance of the ecosystems by releasing oxygen into the air, absorb harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide from the air and purify it, protect us from ultra-violet rays, prevent soil erosion, and decreases the effects of global warming, tree plantation at present is a necessity.
Pakistan has the lowest forest cover of only 1.9 per cent, the lowest in South Asia, and of which Balochistan has only 0.2 per cent forest cover of total forestry of the country. According to environmental experts, forests should at least cover 25% of the province to maintain an ecological balance. Balochistan had witnessed deforestation at a staggering rate of 2.1 per cent. Though UNESCO has declared Ziarat juniper forests a biosphere reserve, yet the cutting of juniper trees is on the go. Therefore, Balochistan still needs to increase the forest cover on war-footing.
As a result, there are several campaigns initiated to plant trees throughout the country. One of which is the Prime Minister’s Billion Tree campaign. Similar campaigns have been initiated in Balochistan as well, for instance, the Spring Tree plantation Campaign in districts Harnai, Duki and Kohlu. It is said that at least fifteen thousand plants and trees will be distributed in Harnai district.
Different campaigns are running in the provincial capital Quetta as well. The provincial government has planned to plant one million saplings during the campaign and 100,000 saplings have already been planted. Further, the Forest and Wildlife Department of Balochistan (FWLDB)’s Billion Tree Project is currently getting attention owing to have the potential to support the cause.
Different colleges and universities have started independent campaigns one of which is Clean and Green BMC, a campaign started by the former principal of Bolan Medical College (BMC) who has geared up to plant trees inside the premises of the college. There has been a significant change observed in the academic and hospital area of the institution. The Helping Hands, an active organisation of Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences (BUMHS), has started a somewhat similar project called Sour Tree project by using an innovative technique known as Pitcher irrigation which uses baked earthen pots or pitchers buried in the soil to water the garden area. The pots are buried in the ground to the neck, then filled with clean water. Enough water soaks through the pot into the root zone to supply and maintain plant growth. This is a good method to conservatively supply water to the plants which would be sufficient for them for a few days. Likewise, there was a similar campaign initiated in the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering & Management Sciences (BUITEMS) to play a part in making the city green.
The people of Balochistan have long been waiting for solid actions on the matter, however, recently many steps have been taken to help green the region as self-initiatives. One such initiative is the Green Quetta Drive, where a group of individuals have lauded their efforts to secure these campaigns.
As well as being attractive aesthetically, tress enhances air quality and improve urban heat island effect by providing shade. They also increase humidity thus help to mitigate the effects of drought in the province. Also, the good root system can increase the groundwater level which has gone down more than 1000 feet during the past one year that points out that Balochistan is about to run out of water. They are also crucial to maintain fast-changing weather patterns.
Nonetheless, the soil being arid and the water limitations makes this process of planting very challenging. To combat which, proper measures should be taken to build a healthier soil first by adapting new methods so that soil is well taken care of.
The point of concern here is not planting enough trees but planting the right trees at the right place. The type of soil, and which type of plants can grow in that soil is what needs proper attention. Parameters deemed suitable for planting is only when a specific specie of a tree is planted. Mangroves, junipers and eucalyptus are one of the few species that grow well in Balochistan.
As the entire province scuffles with drought situation, there should be new a technology designed to help grow trees in dry areas allowing them to develop root structures deep enough to absorb underground water. Similarly, the trees which need comparatively less water should be planted.
The process of growing a tree from a sapling, however, is time-consuming so the questions that arise here are what if the next government doesn’t take the matter the same way that the previous government had? And what if these projects surcease without completion?
Hence, it solely lies on the campaigners, be it independent or government-based efforts, to ensure that the maximum benefit out of these campaigns is attained. Otherwise, investment of so much time and effort into such campaigns will go in vain.