Investing in urban forestry ensures conservation of urban ecosystems, Experts

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Islamabad; March 21, 2018 – Growing population, expanding urbanization, mushroom growth of housing societies and high-rise of concrete skyscrapers have been making cities denser and causing decrease in space available for plants and trees. As a result of more concrete, the inhabitants of large metropolitans have been suffering from heat waves, water scarcity, air pollution and urban waste. Urban vertical forestry is one of the key solutions to make cities livable.

This was the crux of the views expressed by the urban planners and climate change advocates at a special seminar on ‘Urban Forestry is a need of the hour to make cities sustainable/livable’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and REDD+ National Office, the Ministry of Climate Change in collaboration with Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Service (PIPS), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Food and Agriculture Organization, Be There, Ghargharana Group, Green Pakistan and others here on Wednesday. The seminar which was conducted to observe the International Day of Forests was attended among others by civil society, parliamentarians, students and representatives of INGOs. At the end of the event, SDPI/REDD+ certificates and cash prizes for good essays and painting were distributed among winning students of various schools.

Speaking at the occasion, Romina Khursheed Alam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of climate Change said changing climate is an issue which is affecting people from all walks of lives, hence, it is a shared challenge and responsibility. “We are trying to engage more youth in our green activities and forestation campaigns,” she said adding that our youth are more than half of the total population and have the energy as well as enthusiasm to bring positive change in the society.

Romina called for prudent use of the water at all level, especially at household level, to conserve and maintain the ecosystem of the cities. “We should take ownership and take responsibility to preserve our nature,” said Romina, adding that role of media in raising awareness in this regard was of great importance.

Earlier, Deputy Mayor, Islamabad, Syed Zeeshan Ali Naqvi said a number of activities and campaigns were already initiated under the Prime Minister Green Pakistan program to make Pakistan, especially the capital greener. “The mayor and deputy mayor office of the Islamabad is open for citizen’s suggestions and we will support every green initiative,” vowed the deputy mayor, adding that together we can make Islamabad the most beautiful capital of the world.

Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest, later said temperature of a city can be reduced to a larger extent through urban and vertical forestry. “We should start vegetation at our home and even on the rooftop, which also serves as natural air conditioner and reduces the room temperature,” he said, adding that through vertical plantation 20 to 50 percent electricity cost can also be brought down.

Dr. Asghar Naeem, Head of Urban and Regional Planning Department, NUST said there is increasing trend of urbanization in Pakistan and if this trend continues, around 60 percent of the population will be living in urban areas by 2050. “Green cover of the cities has changed drastically over the years,” he said adding that Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar are the worst cities with the air pollutions. We have to act now to make our cities liveable.

Prof. Dr. Sarwat N. Mirza, Vice Chancellor, Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi said urban forestry in our planning phase was not taken seriously and was taken as an after-thought. “There is huge potential of urban forestation in Pakistan,” he said adding that we should be more concerned about urban forestry in our actions.

Shafqat Munir, Associate Research Fellow said SDPI has been on the forefront of the green campaigning in Pakistan. “We are currently undertaking an awareness campaign on REDD+ to make people aware of the benefits of forestation in the country. Observing the day is part of the campaign and SDPI’s long standing commitment to the cause of reversing/limiting impacts of hazards from climate change to build a resilient Pakistan”.

Muhammad Qasim, Representative of REDD+ program in Pakistan at the beginning gave an overview of REDD Plus programme in Pakistan saying that there are three phases of REDD+ which include, development of national strategies, second is implementation of policies and capacity building and third is result based payments as benefit of planting and protecting trees.

Dr. Faiz-ul Bari, Representative of FAO said urban forestry is the new concept and we should work more to gain the desired results. “Urban forests provide clear and cooler air,” he said adding that forests should be on priorities’ list in action plans; and these plans should be effectively implemented.

Shafique Akbar Chairman Gharana Group said building green skyscrapers in the new trend in sustainable cities around the world. “Green skyscrapers are gaining attention of builders owing to energy efficient and smart architectural designs,” he said adding that Gharan Group has launched its pilot project ‘Amazon Mall’ in the capital and Pakistan is going to have its first ever green skyscrapers soon.

Fawad Sohail Abbasi Vice Presidents Institute of Architecture said there is need we develop architecture standards promoting vertical forestry in cities.-ENDs

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