The 2021 edition of the UN-organized World Environment Day will be held this Saturday, June 5. This year, Pakistan is in the spotlight. In 2019, the South Asian country launched one of the largest reforestation projects in the world.
Ten billion trees planted by 2023. This is the ambitious project of the " Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme ," launched in 2019 by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. The first phase aims to plant 3.25 billion trees in the country, at an estimated cost of about 105 billion Pakistani rupees (about 680 million dollars). The program also aims to preserve mangroves (an ecosystem of trees along the coastline), reforest cities and create more than 5,500 "green" jobs.
This reforestation project is part of a similar approach to the "Billion Tree Tsunami" launched in 2014 by the previous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, which aimed to plant 1 billion trees across the country.
Meanwhile another WWF Pakistan -supported project launched in 2018 has planted nearly 1.6 million trees, native species in the country, in different cities of Pakistan, along with about a billion native plants.
A country at high risk of deforestation
According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 , Pakistan ranks eighth among countries most affected by climate change between 1999 and 2019, with economic losses equivalent to $3.772 billion.
Extreme heat waves, high humidity, flooding... Pakistan is directly affected by the melting of Himalayan glaciers, which is responsible for severe water shortages in much of the country, as well as the gradual disappearance of riparian forests.
In fact its annual deforestation rate is considered one of the highest in the world. Between 2000 and 2010, the country lost an average of 43,000 hectares of forest per year, about half the area of its capital Islamabad.
Its forest currently covers about 4.478 million hectares (5.1%), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is a very small share when you consider that the world's forest cover is 4.06 billion hectares (about 31% of the total land area).
This Saturday's World Environment Day will also mark the opening of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystems Restoration 2021-2030. The year 2030 as a deadline was not picked randomly: it corresponds to the deadline set by scientists to avoid the amplification of the effects of climate change.
"2020 was a year of reckoning, facing multiple crises, including a global pandemic and the continued crises of climate, nature and pollution. In 2021, we must take deliberate steps to move from crisis to healing: and in so doing, we must recognize that the restoration of nature is imperative to the survival of our planet and the human race," outlined Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme .