Malik Amin Aslam, minister for climate change said in an interview that the government is in the first phase of planting 3.25 billion trees at an estimated cost of around 105 billion rupees ($650 million). Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to extend that to almost 10 billion by the time his term in office ends in 2023.
“We are trying to unleash a green economy,” Aslam said by phone.
Pakistan is among the six countries that face the biggest impact from climate change, according to the United Nations, with risks of floods, melting glaciers and droughts. Its forest cover is now among the lowest in the world – about 5% of the land, compared with a global average of 31%, according to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
“Unfortunately, we never cared about them,” said Khan at a tree-planting ceremony in July. “After independence from the British, we have lost forests instead of adding to them.”
Pakistan is planting trees that need relatively little water, like the azadirachta indica, a fast-growing mahogany commonly known as the neem tree. Neems typically don’t need to be watered after the first five years, while the other species that have been chosen only need extra water for the first few months, according to Tabish Hussain, a government-employed forester in Karachi.