Let’s Paint Pakistan Green https://www.dawn.com/news/1428668

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

There is a fable about an old man who was planting a tree by a roadside. A passerby stopped to watch and asked in an inquisitive tone, “Why are you planting this tree, when you won’t live to enjoy its shade?”

The old man replied with a smile, “I am not planting it for myself, but for the generations to come.”

Martin Luther, a German theologist, once said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Friends, every day we read about global warming and climatic changes and how disastrous it is for the human race and all living things on our planet. In simple words, climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate, especially the gradual increase in temperature. Out of many reasons for this rise in average temperatures, a major one is the high level of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases in the atmosphere. This in turn is due to the diminishing forest cover around the world, a negative effect of the rapid industrialization taking place all over the world.

You all must have learned in your science classes how trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, for the process of photosynthesis, a cycle nature has devised for them to create their own food. In return, they give out oxygen and moisture, which are essential for our survival. As forests are decreasing, this natural process to keep a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has become badly disturbed. The importance of increasing the green cover and forests, is one of the most important steps suggested by experts.

You may not be aware that Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries from climatic changes. Rising temperatures, severe droughts, flooding due to heavy rains and melting glaciers are some of the problems we are facing. Here we will not discuss the reasons, but our small input to fight this grave problem.

Friends, we all can put in efforts, big or small, to make a difference and fight this enemy which is not knocking at our door, but has already entered our precious motherland. Although the international standard for forest cover for a country is 12 percent, a World Bank study shows that Pakistan has only 3.3 percent of forest area.

Let’s make a vow that from now on, we shall paint Pakistan green! As I have mentioned above, deforestation is a major cause for the rising temperatures in our homeland. Ruthless felling of trees by the timber mafia for their selfish gains, for fuel by the poor people who do not have alternate source of energy and an indifferent policy by the government, have reduced our forest cover and greenery to a disastrous level. Instead of lamenting on our national loss, let us decide to take our destiny in our own hands and strive for what contribution we can make to control the situation.

Friends, here are a few suggestions for a greener Pakistan.

Start a green drive

You may be surprised at my suggestion, thinking that this is something for older people to do. But if you think deeply, you will realise that you can work according to your age. Your plantation drive can start from your homes, your family and your neighbourhood, and you can work on it according to your age.

You can start by planting small plants in pots, and trees in the open areas in your homes. Those of you who live in apartments or small houses, can reserve a corner of your house or a part of your balcony where you can keep small pots of plants of your choice.

Spread awareness among your family and neighbourhood and request them to join your plantation drive. You can offer to volunteer to help in planting, watering and taking care of the green areas on weekends for those who do not have a lot of helping hands and find it hard to take care of their plants and trees.

One tree for every child

Recently I was deeply impressed by a story I read about a prospering village. This village adopted ‘A tree for a child’ policy on a self-help basis. With every child born, a new fruit tree was planted and handed over to the child when he/she was old enough to look after it.

Although this was fiction, if we think seriously this measure could make our country green in a few years. Whenever a baby is born in your family, ask the parents to plant a tree dedicated to him/her. Trees can also be planted for older children and they will feel proud as they see their saplings grow with them, out beating them in height in no time.

Plant according to your age

The younger ones among you can look after small pots, after requesting your parents or elder siblings to plant seeds or saplings for you. Make sure that the plants get enough sunshine and water them regularly according to their requirement. But be careful not to over water your seeds, as it will destroy them.

The older ones among you can go for bigger plants, shrubs, creepers or trees, whichever you like more. Ask around, consult your science teachers or search the internet for the vegetation best suited for your area. Your mum will be delighted if you grow vegetables or herbs in big pots or open areas in your homes.

Plant according to your region

Pakistan is a country with diverse physical features. We have highlands, mountains, plains, valleys, deserts and a long sea shore. Find out which plants and trees are the best to grow in the climate of your region and the best months of the year to plant them.

Choosing wisely will save you from disappointment if the plants you sow wither away quickly.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Plant in open spaces, roadsides, parks and public places

We often see open areas which are devoid of any greenery. With the permission of an authorised person, you can work in a group in such places in your neighbourhood and plant suitable trees. Take turns to water these plants and look out for any pests or other problems.

You can consult an older person to help you out in solving your problems if using pesticides or adding manure is required. You will feel proud when these trees grow and create a green cover for the previously barren area.

Save your seeds

Friends, we all enjoy fruits at our homes. Make it a point to save the seeds of these fruits. Dry them in shady place for a few days and then you can replant them in a more open space so that they can flourish into a large tree. If you do not have enough space, give them to your acquaintances who live in bigger homes.

In the same way, some vegetables can also be grown. Tomatoes, lady finger and spinach are some of the vegetables which you can easily grow at home.

Create a green fund in every home

My young friends, you will need money for buying seeds and plants to paint Pakistan green! Create a common fund in each home.

You can request your parents and grandparents to donate to your ‘green fund’ and also save some amount each month from your pocket money. We all love to go out and enjoy on weekends. For the love of trees, I would suggest that for at least one weekend every month, you all skip this outing and add to your fund instead.

At the end of each month, if you have money left in your green fund, plant some more or give the amount to those who cannot spare money to create a green corner in their homes.

Follow the instructions in parks and green areas

I feel sad to write these lines, but as a nation, we love to break rules. Often clear instructions in bold words are written at important points in parks which read, ‘Do not walk on the grass’, or ‘Do not pluck flowers’, but people ignore these instructions with impunity.

Do not follow the example of those who break rules, but create awareness among your peers that protecting and taking care of greenery (and following rules) is not only our duty, but it is also for our own good.

Cut down on paper usage

I hope you all know that the paper we write on, the paper plates and cups we use during outings and the tissue papers we throw away after using once, are all made from wood. Use your exercise books carefully, utilising them as much as you possibly can. Cut down on items of onetime use and avail recycling measures wherever possible.

Although these steps are simple, they may be time consuming. But staying out in the open will also be beneficial for your health. In the long run, adopting these measures will create a big difference, a difference for a better tomorrow.

Best wishes for a greener and better Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 25th, 2018

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