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

Geographical Week

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

LATEST HEADLINES

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

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    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 ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    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...

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

Indigenous conservation schemes in Peru can be more effective than…

Mapping

How are the EU member nations faring in the fight…

Mapping

Violence against women violates human rights, and the lack of…

Cities

Deadly heat waves could become more frequent in cities thanks…

Mapping

These 13 poignant infographics are in the running for the…

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…

Forests

After an ‘unprecedented’ surge northwards into New Jersey, New York…

Forests

The historic end of civil war in Colombia has had…

Mapping

Where in America can the country's various hate groups be…

Water

The southern US state is sinking twice as fast as…

Cities

An increase in visitors is putting severe strain on Iceland’s…

Cities

Air pollution campaigners hold a disco roadblock, but can it…

Cities

Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality…

Forests

HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity