Pakistanis plant trees to provide relief from scorching sun

Prakash, 19, waters plants at the Clifton Urban Forest, previously a dumping site in Karachi, Pakistan on May 26, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 28 July 2022

Pakistanis plant trees to provide relief from scorching sun

  • In Pakistan, forest cover at 5.5% lags far behind average levels across South Asia
  • Some climate experts question impact of afforestation projects in urban settings

KARACHI: Mulazim Hussain is proud of the trees he has planted.

Surrounded by neem saplings and vegetables sprouting up from scrubland in the Clifton district of Pakistan’s largest city Karachi, the 61-year-old recalls a time a few years ago when the area was a giant, informal rubbish tip.

“Now there is greenery and happiness, children come in the evening to play, people come to walk,” he said, speaking near a patch of trees amid a barren expanse bordered by the sea on one side and tower blocks and offices in the distance on the other.

“I have raised these plants like my children over the last four years,” he added, taking a break from his labors amid a fierce summer heatwave.




A combination picture shows Mulazim Hussain, 61, a farmer at the urban forest plantation project, collecting dry grass in his electric rickshaw (tuktuk) in Karachi, Pakistan on July 9, 2021 (left) and Mulazim Hussain watering plants near the reservoir at the Clifton Urban Forest project in Karachi, on July 2, 2022. (REUTERS)

Wearing a white and brown scarf around his head and a loose, cream-colored shirt, Hussain collected dry grass from the ground and watered his cherished trees during a recent visit by Reuters reporters to the urban forest plantation project.

At the end of the day, he turned the hose on himself to cool off and clean up before heading home on his motorcycle.

The father of two is employed by an urban afforestation project in a government-owned park in Karachi’s upmarket Clifton area that is run by Shahzad Qureshi, who has worked on similar projects in other Pakistani cities and overseas.




A combination picture shows Lakshman, 40, pushing a stick used to support a seedling, as he works at Clifton Urban Forest, previously a garbage dumping site in Karachi, Pakistan on May 26, 2021 (top) and a general view of the same plantation at the Clifton Urban Forest in Karachi, Pakistan on June 29, 2022. (REUTERS)

It is one of dozens of state-owned and private planting initiatives in Pakistan, where forest cover lags far behind average levels across South Asia. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, emissions of which contribute to warming global temperatures.

The aim in Clifton is to counterbalance rapid urbanization in Karachi, a sprawling port city of some 17 million people where breakneck expansion of roads and buildings means there is less and less space for trees and parkland.

Qureshi wanted to provide shade for residents seeking escape from rising temperatures — a heatwave in 2015 killed more than 400 people in the city in three days, and temperatures in the surrounding Sindh region reached record highs this year.

The trees can also attract local wildlife, mitigate urban flooding and provide new sources of food.




A combination picture shows pink flamingos flying past the new palm tree plantation at the Clifton Urban Forest, on June 22, 2022 (left) and a person riding on a camel as he passes through the new plantation of palm trees at the Clifton Urban Forest, on July 15, 2022. (REUTERS)

“The bigger the tree cover of the city the more the cooling, with a difference of up to 10 (degrees) Celsius when you are surrounded by trees,” he told Reuters, adding that the project only used native species.

“As you plant ... it attracts insects, and varieties of birds start coming. Presently mongoose are roaming around in the park, and four or five varieties of chameleon.

“You give them a home, you give them food and let it happen. Nature is so beautiful.”

DOES PLANTING HELP?

Overall forest cover in Pakistan, home to more than 220 million people, is around 5.4 percent, according to Syed Kamran Hussain, manager for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at the World Wide Fund for Nature’s national branch.

That compares with 24 percent in neighboring India and 14.5 percent in Bangladesh, and the previous government announced a mass forestation program that envisaged planting 10 billion trees between 2019 and 2023.

“Pakistan is among the top 10 most vulnerable countries affected by global warming,” Hussain said. “After oceans, trees are the second largest sink of carbon.”




Traffic moves under a bridge displaying a banner from the monsoon tree plantation campaign in Karachi, Pakistan on July 5, 2022. (REUTERS)

Some climate change experts question the impact of afforestation projects — the planting of trees where there were none before — in urban settings.

The choice of species is important, because it affects the amount saplings may need to be watered — a major factor in Pakistan where water is generally scarce.

And whether to plant trees at all is not a simple question: the benefits are not always clear and significant investment is needed to nurture saplings into fully grown trees.




Irfan Husain, 55, a former employee at a power utility in the Middle East, rides on a bike while carrying Azadirachta Indica seedlings, which he will plant in Karachi, Pakistan on May 31, 2021. (REUTERS)

“What is missing from urban forestry is a holistic approach to the environment,” said Usman Ashraf, a doctoral researcher in development studies at the University of Helsinki. He was not commenting specifically on the Karachi project.

“It’s about visual success, the numbers, small patches here and there,” he said. “It won’t even make a dent on any of the environmental harm in these cities.”

Masood Lohar, who founded the Clifton Urban Forest that has planted trees on the beach front not far from Qureshi’s project, said afforestation could help make Karachi more resilient against natural disasters and encourage wildlife to settle.




Masood Lohar, 54, a development expert who has overseen Clifton Urban Forest, previously a garbage dumping site, shows eggs laid by moorhen in Karachi, Pakistan on July 1, 2022. (REUTERS)

Experts say it can also provide relief from heatwaves, with the sea breeze getting hotter as it passes through concrete structures while roadways and rooftops absorb heat. Where to plant is a key question, with wealthier urban areas often better off in terms of tree cover.

In the absence of more trees, “we are turning the city into hell,” Lohar said.

In the Sakhi Hassan Graveyard in the center of the city, small saplings grow among uneven tombstones crammed close together, while larger trees offer shade from the midday sun.




Children help Irfan Husain, 55, a former employee at a power utility in the Middle East, to plant Azadirachta Indica seedlings at a graveyard on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan on June 17, 2021. (REUTERS)

Mohammad Jahangir, 35, is a caretaker there who waters the plants for a small cash donation from relatives who seeded them. Viewed from above, the graveyard is a sea of green that stands out against a low-rise neighborhood.

“We don’t feel the heat here in the graveyard, while the city sizzles,” said Jahangir. “These trees are a blessing.” 


England pile up mammoth 657 against Pakistan in first Test

Updated 8 sec ago

England pile up mammoth 657 against Pakistan in first Test

  • England became the first team to score 500 runs on the opening day of a Test match
  • Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 235 for his four wickets, the most by a bowler on a Test debut

RAWALPINDI: England piled up a mammoth 657 runs before being all out Friday on the second day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Resuming at 506-4, the tourists added 151 runs in 125 minutes, with Harry Brook taking his overnight score of 101 to 153 -- one of four centurions in the innings.
Skipper Ben Stokes (41), debutant Liam Livingstone (nine), and Brook -- were all dismissed by pacer Naseem Shah, who finished with 3-140.
Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 235 for his four wickets -- the most by a bowler on a Test debut.
On Thursday England became the first team to score 500 runs on the opening day of a Test match, bettering Australia's 112-year-old record of 494-6 against South Africa in Sydney.
Zak Crawley (122), Ollie Pope (108), and Ben Duckett (107) were the other centurions in the innings.
The three-match Test series is England's first in Pakistan for 17 years.


Pakistan led efforts for climate ‘loss and damage’ fund, now world should deliver — PM

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan led efforts for climate ‘loss and damage’ fund, now world should deliver — PM

  • Group of 134 states led by flood-battered Pakistan presented united front at UN summit
  • Details on how fund will operate, where it will source money will be worked out by a committee

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said Pakistan had led the effort at last month’s UN climate summit to get a deal approved for funding arrangements for climate change impacts suffered by vulnerable countries, but now the world needed to “deliver” on the landmark development.

Two-week talks in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh ended last month with a deal to establish a ‘loss and damage’ fund to help vulnerable countries pay their rising costs of climate damage. The details on how the fund will operate and how it will source money will be worked out by a committee in the coming year.

A group of 134 African, Asian and Latin American states and small island nations, led by flood-battered Pakistan, presented a united front to push through the controversial fund.

“Pakistan ably led the Global South in crafting a consensus towards climate justice. The journey has only begun,” Sharif said on Twitter.

“The world needed to continue with a win-win approach to deliver on the landmark development. Transitional Committee has its plate full with time running out fast. We have to build on the hope by resetting our priorities for a bright future.”

While climate activists have broadly welcomed the new fund, they are cautious that many aspects of its governance are still to be resolved, and it is unclear how much money it will be able to raise and from where.

The United States, European governments and other industrialised countries had swung their weight behind the fund after years of resistance, their opposition rooted in fears of being held financially liable for the impacts of their historically high greenhouse gas emissions.

But that line became tougher to hold amid the "growing gravity, scope and frequency in all regions of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change," as the final "Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan" noted.

Climate "loss and damage" includes not just harm to people, their homes and infrastructure from disasters such as floods, droughts and storms but also forced displacement from slower impacts such as sea level rise, as well as losses of cultural heritage and community livelihoods, it added.

The new fund will differ from other UN-backed climate funds because it will gather money from a far wider range of sources, including development banks and innovative sources of finance such as taxes on fossil fuels or airlines.

Traditional donor governments, including European Union (EU) members and the United States, insisted on this as a condition for supporting the fund.

They faced push-back from China and other emerging economies, so the thorny issue of who exactly will pay into the fund was put off to be settled later.

The United States and other nations have argued that China, as the world's biggest climate polluter since 2006, should have a role in contributing to the fund, which Beijing has rejected.


In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

Updated 02 December 2022

In Pakistan’s southwest, two Pashtun women footballers score against taboos

  • Rozi Bakht and Masnoora Kakar are the first female footballers in Balochistan from ethnic Pashtun families
  • The young sports women want to serve as an inspiration for other girls from their impoverished towns

QUETTA: Two women footballers in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province are shooting for greater inclusion for women from their ethnic Pashtun community, hoping that they can become an example for other girls from their impoverished hometowns who want to pursue sports.

Meet Rozi Bakht, 23, and Mansoora Kakar, 22, who are the only women footballers in Balochistan who hail from the conservative ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

“In my village, there are meager educational facilities for girls, so how can a girl even think about playing football or any other sport?” Bakht, who hails from the remote town of Tuba Kakari in Balochistan’s backward Pishin district told Arab News, outlining her battles against both poverty and the conservative values of her community.

This undated file photo shows Pakistani woman footballer Mansoora Kakar in action. (AN photo)

But the hurdles did not dampen Bakht’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport and she began to regularly attend practice sessions at the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy (BWFA).

For the last three years, she has been the captain of her team, whose coach is a man.

“It was very challenging for me to seek permission from my parents but despite negative criticism, including attacks on my character, my father allowed me to play because he trusted me,” Bakht said during a practice session with more than a dozen other girls at a small futsal ground in Quetta on a chilly evening last week.

Bakht is the only woman from her district who plays football at the provincial level, and hopes to be a source of encouragement for other girls in her village who have a passion for sports.

Just like Bakht, Kakar, another Pashtun girl who belongs to Kuchlak, a town on the outskirts of  Quetta, is also the first women footballer from her home district. She joined the Balochistan Women’s Football Academy two years ago.

Dressed in a black tracksuit that she paired with a red head scarf, Kakar cheered along with her teammates after scoring a goal during a practice match last Saturday. Now a forward player in the team, she too spoke about the hardships she had to face when she initially expressed her desire to join sports.

“I had a passion for football since my childhood, I used to play in my home but when I enrolled myself in college, I started playing there,” Kakar told Arab News. “But when I came to know that there is a football club [for females], I came here. Now it's been two years that I am in this team.”

“When I asked for permission to play football, my family refused because it was very difficult for me to commute for practices as the ground was 30km away from my home,” Kakar added.

“I come for my regular practice matches via a local bus which is the only affordable source of transportation for me because my father and brothers have their own work and can’t provide me pick and drop services.”

This undated file photo shows footballers Rozi Bakht, second left, and Mansoora Kakar, left, during a practice session in Quetta, Pakistan. (AN photo)

Many girls in Kuchlak, Kakar said, had a passion for sports, particularly football, but couldn’t play due to familial and cultural barriers.

But Muhammad Yasir Khan, 22, the head coach at the women's academy, hoped more girls would join the football club.

“The presence of sportswomen from the Pashtun belt,” he said, “is very limited which needs to be increased.”


UAE remains largest relief assistance provider to flood-affected people in Pakistan — envoy

Updated 02 December 2022

UAE remains largest relief assistance provider to flood-affected people in Pakistan — envoy

  • The embassy of the Arab state organized a colorful ceremony to celebrate its 51st National Day
  • The ceremony was also attended by senior Pakistani ministers, politicians and veteran diplomats

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan’s flood-affected families, said its envoy on Thursday while addressing a ceremony in the federal capital to celebrate the 51st National Day of his country.
The event was organized by the UAE embassy to highlight the culture of the Arab state by setting up colorful stalls and arranging traditional dance performances.

UAE citizens performs traditional dance to celebrate their country's 51st National Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 1, 2022. (AN photo)

Pakistan’s defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif cut the cake as the chief guest of the ceremony which was also attended by information minister Maryam Aurangzeb and other political leaders and diplomats.
UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi welcomed the guest while pointing out his country’s relations with Pakistan had only become stronger with time.
“As the wise leadership of UAE always stood first to assist and provide humanitarian support to the brotherly Pakistani people, as and when needed in times of national crisis and natural calamities, it remained the largest relief assistance provider to the flood affectees,” he said.
Al-Zaabi noted an airbridge of humanitarian aid had been immediately established after the floods on the directives of President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“The airbridge of humanitarian aid established by UAE carried 57 flights to Pakistan and 205 containers carrying thousands of tons of foods, health packages and various shelter materials,” he continued.

Other than that, he added, several non-governmental organizations based in his country, such as the UAE Red Crescent and Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, were still working in the field to provide rescue and relief assistance to the survivors of the devastating floods.
Al-Zaabi said the UAE believed that the future of regional security depended on strong multilateral partnerships and a common commitment to stability and prosperity through peaceful political and economic means.
“As home to more than 200 nationalities from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, the UAE is deeply committed to safeguarding human rights and building upon its steady progress in this field,” he continued. “Over the years, the UAE has signed several treaties to protect human rights and, in October 2021, the UAE won the membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term for the third time in its history.”

The UAE embassy arranged a colorful event in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 1, 2022, to celebrate the Arab state's 51st National Day. (AN photo)

The UAE envoy said his country had adopted strategies that stimulated economic diversification by moving away from oil and working for greater prosperity by relying on scientific and technological progress.
Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan’s information minister congratulated the government and people of UAE on their National Day on behalf of her country.
“The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and one of the largest foreign investors,” she said while adding that Pakistani people considered the Arab state as their second home.
“The two countries have established brotherly relations based on common heritage and multilateral cooperation,” she added.


After success of Maula Jatt, biopic on iconic Pakistani wrestler Gama Pehlwan in the works

Updated 02 December 2022

After success of Maula Jatt, biopic on iconic Pakistani wrestler Gama Pehlwan in the works

  • ‘The Great Gama’ is expected to feature international cast and crew in addition to Pakistani artists
  • Gama Pehlwan remained India’s undefeated wrestling champion during the early 20th century

KARACHI: After the enormous success of “The Legend of Maula Jatt,” veteran Pakistani scriptwriter Nasir Adeeb is working on the dialogues of a new film focusing on the life of a legendary wrestler, Gama Pehlwan.

Born as Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt in a traditional Kashmiri Muslim family in 1878, Gama remained India’s undefeated wrestling champion during the early 20th century.

Even after more than five decades of his death, he continues to be a major inspiration for wrestlers in Pakistan.

“People are not expecting an ordinary film from me after Maula Jatt,” Adeeb told Arab News, adding “The Great Gama” would make an attempt to do justice with the iconic wrestler’s larger-than-life persona.

“The film will feature original events from his life, though we will tweak the rest of the story around it,” he continued. “We are not making a documentary. We are making a film.”

Adeeb said he found the idea of making the film on Gama “unique” since no one in Pakistan had tried to bring him to life on the big screen. He added he had been reading a lot about the subject while writing the script.

“A book has been published on him in India,” he informed. “We are getting it delivered here. I have already read everything on him that is available on Google.”

Gama was popular for defeating his opponents within the first few minutes of the fight. He also challenged several national and international players and overpowered them during the peak of his youth.

“I found him to be a very intriguing character,” said producer Shayan Khan whose company, Zashko Films, is working on the project. “I feel that Gama’s strength is very inspiring. It can set an example for our youth that anything is possible if we put our mind to it. Gama went around the world while proving the strength of our region.”

Khan hoped the film would be released in 2023 after being shot abroad with international cast and crew.

“We will have locations in the European and North American region as well as Pakistan,” he said. “Our goal will be to use as much cast and crew from Pakistan as possible.”