Need stressed to raise forest cover for better environment

KARACHI: Speakers at a programme have highlighted the need to adopt best water and energy conservation practices in society at large for promoting environment, tree plantation and useful plants.

The need was stressed at Eid Milan Party, organized National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) at a local hotel. It was attended by environmentalists, industry representatives, government officials, business experts, energy conservationists, media persons, social activists, and notables from different walks of life. Consul General of Indonesia in Karachi Hadi Santoso, DIG South Dr. Jamil Ahmed, Sr. Journalist Mazhar Abbas and Dr Kaiser Waheed.

Participants of the programme were of the view that forest cover in the country had decreased to an alarming extent much below the global standards due to unchecked commercial, construction, and anti-environment activities.

Karachi had witnessed major improvement in law and order situation this year owing to which people had fully indulged themselves in business and economic activities. He said the Karachi’s markets due to improvement in security situation had seen massive Eid related shopping spree this year with total record volume of Rs 70 billion.

President NFEH Mohammad Naeem Qureshi said the 12 Annual Environment Excellence Awards this year would be held on 27 August with more stringent criteria for selecting applicant organizations and firms for the award. He said a conference on Urbanization and environment will also be held. He announced a massive tree plantation campaign in city and the country by NFEH. He also appealed to citizens to plant maximum trees on 68th Independence Day of Pakistan.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas, said that causalities of around 1200 people in recent heat wave in Karachi had proved well beyond that much damage had been made to city’s environment especially due to constant chopping of trees. He said the authorities, which should have focused on improvement of environment in Karachi had instead become more interested in promoting land grabbing, encroachments, and unauthorized usage of amenity plots.

Gulzar Firoz, chairman standing committee on environment of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry, said the authorities concerned should not accept at all any excuse for tree cutting in Karachi except where cutting activity became highly inevitable for developmental purposes. He urged participants of the programme to unanimously pass a resolution against tree cutting so to stop this unhealthy activity at all costs.

He said the country required construction of new dams whether small or big for creating fresh water reservoirs and for such a national cause, consensus should be built while leaving aside all political differences. He said that construction of new dams should not be made unduly controversial on petty issues like naming of the dams.

He said that Karachi required a proper sewerage treatment system and plants keeping in view large presence of industries. Seema Tahir Khan, CEO of TV One, said that every household in the city could play its due part in water and environment conservation by storage and recycling of water being used in kitchen for dish washing and water being produced through use of air-conditioners.

She said that Karachi should witness plantation of indigenously grown plants and trees instead of importing plant species from abroad whose chances of growth had been minimal due to change in climate and soil conditions. She said the govt should impose proper tax on major landlords having vast ownership of farm land for water use for farming purposes so to prevent them from exploiting due water rights of small farmers. She said the agricultural sector had seen installation of tube wells on unprecedented scale over last several decades causing massive depletion of groundwater reservoirs.

Waqar Phulpoto, Director Technical at Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), said the SEPA had lately become active to effectively check environmental concerns regarding major developmental activities in the city. As such due to such helpful intervention of SEPA, major construction projects in Karachi had undergone design and plan changes to mitigate environmental concerns.

He said environmental issues had become so much flagrant and alarming that only SEPA could not reverse such a serious damage alone as all the agencies, authorities, and stakeholders concerned had to get their act together for working unanimously on this front.

Fouzia Tariq of United Nations’ Association of Pakistan said that school and college students should be involved once again in city-wide tree plantation drive in the same manner they had been involved during tenure of former city nazim Mustafa Kamal. Ghulam Mohammad Khan, CSR Divison Coordinator of National Bank of Pakistan, said that Commissioner Karachi should involve more corporate sector companies on active basis for his upcoming tree plantation drive in the city.

In his concluding remarks, Police DIG South Karachi Dr Jamil Ahmed said the authorities concerned after experiencing improvement in law and order should focus their resources and energy for improvement of environment in the city, mainly through planting trees and promotion of green belts along major roads. He said that police stations, pickets, posts, and residential lines were fully available in areas under his jurisdiction for promoting any sort of tree plantation drive in the city.

Chairman NFEH Dr Kaiser Waheed, Fozia Tariq of United Nations Association, Ghulam Mohammad of NBP, Sumir Shaikh, Tariq Pasha and others also spoke.

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