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Tree colourWith thousands of people and millions of acres of cropland adversely affected by this year’s ferocious monsoon, climate change is a harsh reality. Therefore, there is a drastic need to plant trees in all our cities. Yet the authorities, with Karachi being a prime example, appear set on wiping out green belts and cutting down trees to make way for billboards and other money generating developments.

Trees provide a necessary environmental balance without which the planet cannot survive. They fight atmospheric pollution, provide homes for birds, bees, insects and other life-forms and – this is of extreme importance – assist in regulating global and regional weather patterns which, without enough trees, run disastrously amok. Few people appear to realise that decimating tree populations in our cities carries a dreadful penalty: the cutting of even a single tree is a contributory factor to climate change.

Six years ago, the then City District Government of Karachi (later replaced by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation), spent approximately Rs 5.5 million on the bulk import of Conocarpus erectus saplings from Ethiopia, planting them at various locations across the city; the species was also made available at various nurseries.

Conocarpus erectus is scientifically proven, when planted en masse, to increase pollen counts to unacceptable levels when in blossom; it also promotes drought. Increasingly common in Karachi, the current authorities are now going all out to remove it but not, as could be expected, for environmental or health reasons – but rather to facilitate financial gain.

Removing Conocarpus erectus’ from the scene is a sensible move but it is also necessary to replace them with indigenous trees such as bauhinia (kachnar), cassia fistula (Indian laburnum), ficus indica (banyan), ficus religiosa (peepal), melia adadiracta (neem), melia azadarach (Persian lilac), poinciana regia (gulmohar), tamarindus indica (imli) and a wide variety of palm trees – if we are to mitigate the effects of climate change and survive.

– B Khan

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 21, 2014.