Zahrah Nasir President Zardari actually came up with an excellent idea recently butnot having a horticultural advisor in his entourage, still, unfortunately, managed to get it wrong As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and his intentions, undoubtedly, were good in that he opted to flaunt tradition and plant an olive tree in the grounds of the Presidents House to launch this seasons tree plantation campaign, the first of the two, or even three, such financial fiascos to come to this year. Whilst the gentleman may have simply used the occasion to offer a symbolic peace branch to the nation, indeed to the entire world as a whole, he could also have been promoting the planting of useful, rather than decorative, trees which would be a laudable move. However, if he now expects to sit back and enjoy the fruit of his labours, he is in for a huge disappointment as an olive tree require cross pollination from other olive trees, males and females of the species normally being involved, if it is to eventually bear fruit. Planting a grove of olive trees is fine, a single one a complete waste of time and resources and, if the tree is to be graced with a commemorative plaque as such trees often are, perhaps this one should boast of being 'Zardaris of the many which spring to mind Maybe a little bit green around the gills as far as planting trees is concerned, the president did, however, have the presence of mind to ask the Environment Minister Hamedullah Jan Afridi and Mazhar Hussain, the Capital Development Authority member responsible for the environment , who were present to help him wield the shovel if necessary, just how many of the 58 million trees to be planted in the country during this campaign will actually manage to survive and was not overly impressed to be informed that only 50 percent stood a chance. He also waxed lyrical, if 'sources are to be believed, on the importance of safeguarding existing forests and planting more trees to protect the environment and biodiversity of the country as a whole although, sadly, he didnt announce an impending war on the timber mafia, construction magnates who clear or burn trees to make way for concrete expansion and nor did he suggest that stringent maintenance of the 58 million saplings may improve their survival rate. Not to be outdone in the 'plant a useful tree attempt, NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani, opted to plant a Mimusops elengi sapling, 'Malsri in Urdu, in the grounds of the Governors House in Peshawar and which also benefits from cross pollination if it is to bear its edible fruit although, being one up in the tree game, this species is also graced with fragrant blossom from which volatile oil is extracted for use in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries plus, the gorgeous flowers of this South Indian/Burmese species are sacred to the Hindu community. The Forest Department of FATA, where there is a war going on in case anyone has forgotten, intends planting 6.7 million trees scattered amongst all seven tribal agencies and Frontier Regions and have a further 9.7 million trees on standby, presumably to replace those saplings which fall victim to the battle against insurgents, as disposable ground cover for the same, are bulldozed by the army to remove dangerous camouflage or fall victim to the cooking fires of both The Chakwal branch of the PPP also jumped on the bandwagon or perhaps that should be 'timberwagon as that is exactly where most of the mature trees seem to go these days, by providing approximately 50,000 trees, free of charge, although where the cash came from to purchase and distribute them isnt made clear, to small farmers throughout the district. The species chosen for this publicity stunt are Acacia Arabica which is of African origin and not much use for anything other than firewood, Acacia modesta an indigenous firewood tree, Robinia pseud-oacacia native to America and, like so many exports of that nation, its uses are negligible as even the wood stinks when burnt, Pine trees for the timber mafia to lust after, Populus for the matchstick industry and that all time bad introduced Australian species the water grabbing, land depleting Eucalyptus. Money hungry tree planting campaigns, like governments, come and go on a regular basis and neither seem to have a chance of reaching any kind of useful maturity let alone contributing towards the future good of our overexploited country. The only green 'thing on an increasingly sombre horizon appears to be money as in the cash handouts to fight climate change for which our suddenly environmentally conscious government is, reportedly, already polishing its begging bowl with, undoubtedly, at least some of what drops in to it being earmarked for largely invisible or pointless tree planting campaigns to offset the donors disastrous, climatically to us, carbon footprints. Trees do need to be planted on a massive scale but as we dive, head first, towards a waterless, increasingly hungry future, at least plant honestly useful trees which both feed the general public and work towards re-establishing the dwindling, indigenous biodiversity before it completely disappears. The writer is a Murree-based freelance writer.