Pakistan's Next Prime Minister Wants to Plant 10 Billion Trees
The former cricket star's political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won last week's elections and campaigned on several environmental initiatives.
This ambitious pledge builds on Khan's Billion Tree Tsunami, a reforestation project that added 350,000 hectares of trees in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between 2014-2017. The aim was to restore the region's depleted forests and fight the effects of global warming.
"If you plant trees, we have discovered, by the river banks it sustains the rivers. But most importantly, the glaciers that are melting in the mountains, and one of the biggest reasons is because there has been a massive deforestation. So, this billion tree is very significant for our future," Khan told Voice of America after the billionth tree was successfully planted last August.
Pakistan is no stranger to mass reforestation efforts. In 2013, the Sindh Forest Department at Kharochan in Pakistan's Thatta district set a Guinness World record for planting 847,275 trees in 24 hours.
Erik Solheim, the head of the United Nations' Environment Program, praised the new tree-planting program.
"Good to see this strong message from @ImranKhanPTI to plant 10 billion trees! Pakistan is one of the countries at the frontlines of climate change," he tweeted.
The country has as little as 2.2 percent of total forest cover, Pakistan Today reported. Experts have warned that Pakistan could run out of forests in the next 50 years if deforestation continues at current rates.
"PTI is the one party which has taken a bold initiative on the green platform," Malik Amin Aslam, who drafted the climate section of the PTI manifesto and is poised to become environment minister, told Climate Home News. "Pakistan is facing the brunt of climate change, so I think climate preparation, making sure our development is totally climate compatible, our infrastructure is resilient to climate shocks, is going to be very high priority."
The party's environmental pledges include water conservation initiatives, green building codes and supporting clean energy. However, as Climate Change News pointed out, it also promotes increased use of domestic coal reserves from Thar province in order to reduce reliance on imports.