Taking root

Taking root Mopic
28 Jun
2015
Deforested for years, the Swat district in Pakistan wants to plant one billion trees

High peaks, glaciated valleys and coniferous forests. No, this isn’t the Alps, this is the Swat district in northeast Pakistan. Nicknamed the Switzerland of Asia, Swat is home to moist temperate coniferous forests similar to those found in north-west America and Scotland. However, in a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, the district’s forests have been reduced from vast, green swathes to isolated fragments. Now, only four per cent of its woodlands are intact.

To combat this, the ‘one billion tree tsunami’ has been proposed by the local government to revitalise and protect the forests. One billion saplings will be planted to convert 30,000 hectares of land into forest every year until 2018. While it is a grand and over-ambitious initiative, it represents an overall transition in Pakistan from the idea using trees as revenue to using trees as natural capital.

Much of the reforestation will take place in the upper valleys, which have suffered the most logging. ‘For the last 35 years, Swat has been home to millions of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people from other parts of Pakistan,’ explains Claude Rakisits, non-resident senior fellow at the Washington-based South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council. ‘Accordingly, these refugees living in camps have devastated the environment in their search for firewood to cook and keep warm.’ By reforesting these areas, the government hopes to bring revenue to local nurseries as well as much needed flood protection from the Indus river watershed.

‘From a national point of view,’ explains Gideon Kruseman, a development and environmental economist, ‘the Swat valley trees are important in terms of the Indus river watershed management, especially in the upper parts of the valley which are more sparsely populated.’ In July 2010, a devastating flood wreaked damage and took close to 2,000 lives, something that could have been buffered had there been better forests in the upper valley.

‘From a global perspective,’ Kruseman adds, ‘deforestation is conducive to global warming’. The reforestation programme therefore also represents one aspect of Pakistan’s ongoing climate concerns.

This article was published in the July 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Forests

HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity

Forests

The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…

Forests

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Cities

Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…

Mountains

Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?

Mapping

Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…

Cities

The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…

Mapping

Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…

Water

What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…

Mountains

Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…

Mapping

Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps

Water

Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…

Water

As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…

Cities

Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…

Mapping

An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…

Mapping

Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks

Mapping

A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…

Deserts

For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…