Speaking at the launch of the tree plantation drive in Islamabad – part of the government’s countrywide five-year ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ campaign, the premier reiterated his vow of restoring Pakistan’s forest cover the plantation of 10 billion trees before the completion of his term. PM Khan kicked off the Spring Tree Plantation Campaign 2021 in the capital by planting a sapling and inaugurating its first-ever Miyawaki forest on 13 February 2021.
Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years, which is extremely fast compared to the 200 years, it can take a naturally evolving forest to regenerate on its own.
The idea of the Miyawaki forest was first implemented in Lahore in 2020. Prime Minister Imran Khan is known for his passion for growing trees in Pakistan; he has reiterated many times that the cities of his youth, including – Lahore and Peshawar – that were once known as “garden cities” have turned into “concrete, cement jungles” because of the “merciless” deforestation.
Pakistanis are not used to their prime ministers having passionate concern for and speaking on climate change-related issues. Shedding light on the disastrous consequences of deforestation and climate change, he has highlighted the harmful effects of this on an increase in pollution and its harmful effects on children and the elderly.
Pakistan is now the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change in the world. Our forest cover is at an abysmal 5.7%, despite the PTI government’s efforts the past 2.5 years, and
inclusive of the KP government’s provincial efforts of planting one billion trees in the last PTI government’s tenure, this shows how daunting the challenge is for the country. By comparison, India’s forest cover is around 23 percent. The ideal forest cover suggested for plain areas is around 33 percent. While it is difficult to place exact numbers on the country’s cost, the Global Climate Risk Index published by German watch in 2020 highlights that Pakistan suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion between 1999 to 2018.
How the ‘Miyawaki Method’ works
Invented by and named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, the ‘Miyawaki Method’ is a unique afforestation technique aimed at creating dense and multilayered native urban forests from seeds of native species on barren lands. The different native species of plants are planted close to each other, which lets the greens receive sunlight only from the top and makes them grow upwards rather than sideways. The trees planted using this method grow much faster, kick-starting the forest creation process and sucking up more carbon. This leads to the plantation becoming approximately 30 times denser. This technique makes the grow ten times faster than monoculture plantations and guarantees growth of at least 1 meter every year in tree height. The forest needs to be watered and weeded for the first two or three years, after which it becomes self-sustaining.
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“I have launched urban forestry on the lines of Miyawaki technique in Japan where the trees grow ten times faster and 30 times denser and is the best way to fight pollution,” the premier tweeted earlier this month. The first-ever experiment was carried out last year in Liberty Roundabout, Lahore, said the PM. To prove the technique’s effectiveness, he also shared an image of the same spot from last year and this year.
How did the Miyawaki forests idea reach Pakistan?
Ms. Attiya Noon, Punjab Secretary Afforestation helped set up the first Miyawaki Forest in the country. She explained to GVS how the idea of using the revolutionary Miyawaki Method to recreate urban forests was first picked up by Mr. Sheraz J. Monnoo, COO Izhar Monnoo developers while watching a Ted Talk by Shibandu Sharma in 2015. Sharma is an eco-engineer who got trained by Akira Miyawaki himself and now runs his own company,
‘Afforest’, which promotes a standardized method for seeding dense, fast-growing, native forests in barren lands. Fascinated by Sharma’s Ted Talk, Sheraz J.Monnoo hired Shibandu Sharma to replicate this unconventional afforestation technique and set up the forest in his housing society, ‘Dream Gardens’.
Netherlands is one country where the Miyawaki method was implemented on such a wide scale that you would find yourself in proximity to such forests after every few kilometers, explained Ms. Noon. The Indian government is also experimenting with the Miyawaki method in various cities, including Mumbai and Kerala. Other European cities have taken it up at the state level as well.
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After witnessing the astonishing results that the Miyawaki method produced in the Dream Gardens housing society in just 2-3 years, Punjab Secretary Afforestation decided that this was exactly what Lahore needed. Lahore is confronted with shrinking green space, and the goal was to maximize the use of the spaces left, Secretary Afforestation Lahore told GVS.
Under Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, a massive plantation drive had been already initiated in the city known as Afforestation Lahore Project. Punjab Secretary Afforestation, along with Sheraz J.Monnoo, started contacting government officials to support the implementation of the Miyawaki method in other parts of the city. Eventually, LDA Chairman Ahsan Imran offered his support and assigned them a site in Liberty. Sheraz J.Monnoo sponsored the forest via Izhar-Monnoo Group and Zameen.com in December 2019.
The Liberty roundabout forest’s success captured the government’s attention compared to conventional afforestation techniques; this method helped the forest grow ten times faster. Now that the prime minister has inaugurated fifty sites in Lahore, and other districts are beginning to follow suit. It has been launched in Islamabad, and DG PHA has also received
a notification from Hafizabad as they want to implement the same technique there.
Miyawaki forests enable Urban areas to breathe
“Nothing can substitute your natural forests,” Ms Noon explained; however, this method is essential for big cities where land is scarce, and you need to maximize the green spaces that you do have; the other places where it is being used is in deserts where the soil conditions are not suitable to grow natural forests. The Miyawaki method improves the soil of the forest but for a radius of many kilometers around it. “The amount of oxygen this forest produces is thirty times more than a normal forest,” she added. Miyawaki forests are being planted for decades in Malaysia’s desert areas for the improvement of the environment and soil conditions.
Although this method is entirely organic and needs no chemicals and fertilizers, it is still extremely expensive. It requires a lot of engineering, which is why it is only feasible for limited spaces. These forests act as an oasis for biodiversity as this method involves planting dozens of native species in the same area, which brings back the indigenous flora and fauna. “The people living near Liberty also claim that the birdlife there is unlike any birdlife in Lahore,” Ms. Attiya Noon shared.
Climate scientists believe that Pakistan is especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and other climate change effects, including untimely rainfall, sea intrusion, warmer temperatures, glacial melting, and drought conditions.
Fortunately, the incumbent government, under Prime Minister Imran Khan is making relentless efforts on the environmental front. It has set a lofty goal of planting 10 billion trees by the end of the term. It is hoped that the introduction of the Miyawaki method to create resilient and thriving forest ecosystems across the country would help increase Pakistan’s forest cover and would prove vital in averting climate change hazards.