JUL 2, 2018 (BE2C2): It’s simple maths. We are chopping down about 15 billion trees a year globally and planting about 9 billion. So there’s a net loss of 6 billion trees a year. In the region, the man-made deforestation maths is skewed heavily against Pakistan.
Decades of felling and natural disasters have drastically reduced the country’s forests. Figures for the country’s total forest cover range between around 2% and 5% of land area. Nevertheless, Pakistan has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in the region and well below the 12% recommended by the UN.
It is also among the six countries that will be most affected by global warming.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had lost large areas of forest to felling, which increased the likelihood of flooding and landslides. In 2016 flash floods hit the province, killing dozens of people.
A somewhat indiscriminate tree felling scenario has made the mega cities of the country — like Karachi and Lahore, hot spots and drastically air pollution affected.
KP spearheaded the Billion Tree Tsunami, which started in 2014 and cost $169 million and took several years to accomplish.
The country’s northwest hilly province surpassed its 348,400 hectare commitment to the Bonn Challenge. This aims to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land worldwide by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It was the first Bonn Challenge pledge to reach its restoration goal.
Inger Andersen, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the NGO in charge of administering the Bonn Challenge, described it as “a true conservation success story”.
Experts at World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan, which monitored and conducted an independent audit of the reforestation drive, say the project has been an environmental, economic and social success, VOA news reported.
Its popularity has prompted the federal government to launch its own Green Pakistan program, which aims to plant more than 100 million trees in five years across the country. Global warming and changes in monsoon and drought patterns have created water crisis in the country as several dams have dried up and several are drying up slowly for lack of rain being one major reason.
Forestation and reforestation are key to mitigate climate change effects.
How can then millions of trees be planted faster enough across the country — including the mega cities of Karachi and Lahore where urban sprawling has led to tree ratio reaching the rock bottom.
Hand planting trees is slow and expensive. To keep pace with the tractors and bulldozers clearing vast areas of land and planting in tight spaces, we need an industrial-scale solution.
For example, a drone that can plant up to 100,000 trees a day. The climate change investment fund can be tapped for this. Pakistan already has its locally developed drone technology which could be adopted for industrial use.
If not, BioCarbon Engineering, a UK-based company backed by drone manufacturer Parrot, has come up with a method of planting trees quickly and cheaply. Not only that, trees can also be planted in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise unviable.
Here’s how it works. First a drone scans the topography to create a 3D map. Then the most efficient planting pattern for that area is calculated using algorithms.
A drone loaded with germinated seeds fires pods into the ground at a rate of one per second, or about 100,000 a day. Scale this up and 60 drone teams could plant up to 1 billion trees a year countrywide.
The system’s engineers estimate that their method is about 10 times faster and only 20% of the cost of hand planting. And because there is no heavy machinery involved, it’s possible to plant in hard-to-reach areas that have no roads or steep, inaccessible terrain.The BioCarbon team has tested its technology in various locations and recently trialed reseeding historic mining sites in Dungog, Australia.
Elsewhere, a similar idea is being used by Oregon start-up DroneSeed, which is attempting to create a new era of “precision forestry” with the use of drones to plant trees as well as spray fertilizer and herbicides.
Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers for deforestation, with vast swathes of forest cleared to make way for the cultivation of crops including soy, palm oil and cocoa, as well as for beef farming. Pakistan is no exception being an agriculture-based nation.
At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year, Norway announced a $400 million fund to kick-start investments in deforestation-free agriculture in countries that are working to reduce their forest and peat degradation.
It is estimated that the world loses between 74,000 and 95,000 square miles of forest a year – that’s an area the size of 48 football fields lost every minute.