LAHORE - Massive tree plantation is the only hope for combating the monster of global warming and environmental degradation, which is endangering the life on earth in the wake of haphazard industrialisation and emission of lethal gases. Only the trees have the natural potential to consume the toxic gases and the clouds of smoke produced as a result of ever-expanding industries and mounting flood of vehicles in the urban centres. Forests make a substantial contribution for mitigating the climate change through carbon sequestration, substitution and conservation. This is the message of the International Forestry Day, which will be celebrated today (Sunday) around the world to increase human knowledge and awareness about the global warming and the role of trees in the modern times. The day is being celebrated for the last 32 years to remind the people of the importance of forests and the benefits which we gain from them. The experts say trees and forests being the natures gifts can reduce the high levels of carbon dioxide pumped into the earths atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels and emissions of dangerous gases. As per international guidelines, about 25 per cent of the total land mass should be covered with forests to balance the cycles of gases in the environment for making it healthy for human living. But the Punjab Forest Department has been able to increase the tree-covered area on farmlands from 3 trees/acre in 1947 to over 17 trees per care only by the year 2001. And still, there is a potential to increase this density up to 28 trees/acre. Forests give us shade and shelter, refuge and refreshment, clean air and water. Today, with a growing population and subsequent demand for timber products, the forests are at risk from widespread deforestation and degradation. The concept of having a World Forestry Day originated at the 23rd General Assembly of the European Confederation of Agriculture in 1971. March 21 was chosen as the day to be celebrated to provide the people information about three key factors of forestry. They are: protection, production and recreation. Forests cover nearly one-third of the earths land surface and account for almost half of its terrestrial carbon pool. Total carbon in forests was estimated at 633 giga tonnes in 2005 - equivalent to 160 tonnes of carbon per hectare - according to the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment. Deforestation, degradation and other changes in forests contribute 17.4 per cent to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly in tropical developing countries. Most deforestation is caused by the expansion of agriculture and urban and infrastructure development. The officials of the provisional Forest Department told The Nation that it had launched a mass awareness campaign, also involving educational institutions (both private and public), to mark the World Forestry Day. The department plants around 33 million saplings every year and still more plantation is needed to save environment and fight environmental degradation, they said. We have a target of 20 millions saplings to be planted during the current spring season while over 3.5 million saplings have been distributed and planted since February 10, on of the officials said. The farmers community is our key partner in forestry resource development on their farmlands. The department is promoting forest plantations on private lands, as trees were planted on 5,000 acres of land during the previous year. This year, over 100,000 acres will be utilised for this purpose under a mega project while plantation would be ensured on a total of area of 2,240 acres in collaboration with private sector, he added.