LAHORE - Speakers at a ceremony have stressed the need for revisiting development schemes and addressing the environmental concerns as big cities including Lahore were fast losing green spaces.

WWF-Pakistan and PepsiCo jointly arranged the ceremony at Sundar Industrial Estate (SIE) on Thursday to mark start of tree plantation campaign initiated as part of WWF’s Earth Hour to be observed on March 28 across the world.

WWF-Pakistan is supporting PepsiCo to fulfill its commitment of planting a total of 22,000 indigenous trees mainly in Changa Manga. The main purpose of the drive is to enhance health, improve air quality and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.

It was shared that the lack of green belts and increased concrete cover has led to elevated temperatures in cities. Furthermore, new developmental projects and housing colonies are threatening the existence of greenery and the subsequent cutting of trees not only escalates greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions but increases temperature and vulnerability to extreme weather events. It also has adverse impacts on groundwater recharge.

Speaking on the occasion, Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan said that according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the year 2017 was among the three warmest years on record. “There is an urgent need to connect people to nature as part of our shared responsibility and sustainable future.  Pakistan has the highest annual deforestation rate in Asia and forests cover is less than 2.5 per cent of the total land. There is an urgent need to initiate massive plantation drives in and near metropolitan cities to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change.”

He also shared that although Pakistan is not contributing much to climate change it ranks among the top ten most vulnerable countries and is exposed to its adverse impacts such as extreme weather events, more persistent droughts, floods and heat waves. He emphasized the need of public-private partnerships to promote the cause of the environment in the country.

US Consulate Lahore’s economic chief Ann Mason said that trees are essential to life on Earth, and provide vital ecosystem services like clean air, water, food, timber, medicine and many other benefits. To better protect the environment, she added, there is a need to value and conserve trees and forests that help reduce carbon emissions and provide livelihood opportunities to local communities.

Earth Hour started as a symbolic lights out event in Sydney in 2007, and has now grown to engage individuals, business and organizations in over 7,000 cities and more than 180 countries and territories during the hour and beyond. Earth Hour 2018 will be celebrated on Saturday, 24 March 2018 between 8:30 pm. and 9:30 pm local time.