Photos: Tree-planting campaign in Pakistan amid rising temperatures | In pictures News

Surrounded by young neem trees and vegetables growing in the scrubland of Clifton district in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, Mulazim Hussain, 61, recalls a time when a few years ago the area was a giant, informal landfill.

“Now there is greenery and happiness, children come in the evening to play, people come for a walk,” he said, speaking near a grove of trees in the middle of a stretch arid bordered by the sea on one side and towers and offices in the distance. the other.

“I have raised these plants like my children for the past four years,” he added, taking a break from work amid a fierce heatwave.

The father-of-two is employed by an urban afforestation project in a government-owned park in Karachi’s upscale Clifton district, run by Shahzad Qureshi, who has worked on similar projects in other Pakistani cities and the foreign.

It is one of dozens of public and private plantation initiatives in Pakistan where forest cover lags far behind average levels in South Asia. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the emissions of which contribute to warming global temperatures.

The aim in Clifton is to counteract the rapid urbanization of Karachi, a sprawling port city of some 17 million people where the dizzying expansion of roads and buildings means there is less and less space for trees and parks.

Qureshi wanted to provide shade for residents seeking to escape rising temperatures – a heatwave in 2015 killed more than 400 people in the city in three days, and temperatures in the surrounding Sindh region hit record highs This year.

Trees can also attract local wildlife, mitigate urban flooding, and provide new food sources.

Overall, forest cover in Pakistan, home to more than 220 million people, is around 5.4%, according to Syed Kamran Hussain, director of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at the country branch of the Global Fund for nature.

That compares to 24% in neighboring India and 14.5% in Bangladesh, and the previous government announced a mass reforestation program that planned to plant 10 billion trees between 2019 and 2023.

“Pakistan is among the 10 most vulnerable countries affected by global warming,” Hussain said. “After the oceans, trees are the second largest carbon sink.”

Some climate change experts question the impact of afforestation projects – the planting of trees where there were none before – in urban settings. The choice of species is important, as it affects the amount of water young trees may need – a major factor in Pakistan where water is generally scarce.

And whether to plant trees is not a simple matter: the benefits are not always clear and significant investments are needed to turn young trees into adult trees.

“What urban forestry lacks is a holistic approach to the environment,” said Usman Ashraf, a doctoral student in development studies at the University of Helsinki. He did not specifically comment on the Karachi project.

“It’s about visual hits, numbers, little fixes here and there,” he said. “It won’t even reduce the environmental damage in those cities.”

Masood Lohar, who founded the Clifton Urban Forest project which planted trees on the waterfront not far from the Qureshi project, said reforestation could help make Karachi more resilient to natural disasters and encourage wildlife to thrive. install.

Experts say it can also relieve heat waves, with the sea breeze becoming warmer as it passes through concrete structures while roads and rooftops absorb heat. Where to plant is a key question, with richer urban areas often being better off in terms of tree cover.

Without more trees, “we’re turning the city into hell,” Lohar said.

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