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    Plants’ business: another casualty of climate change

    Plants’ business: another casualty of climate change

    PESHAWAR (APP): Abad Khan (35), a poor plant seller is extremely worried after his saplings started dying due to induced climate-change weather patterns, desertification, rise of temperature in spring, and salinity affecting the afforestration business in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

    Unaware of the climate change’s phenomenon, Abad Khan, a resident of Nowshera district, who is associated with the sale and purchase of conventional, ornamental and fruit plants viz a viz flowers since 2014, is agonized after a decrease in its sales during the ongoing spring season.

    While loading plants in his Chingchi loader at Tarnab, a hub of conventional and ornamental plants at Peshawar from where varieties of species including Araucaria, Gangi Palm, Bottle Plam, Black Tiger flowers and Alestonia are being transported to different districts for sale, Abad Khan who entered the pain-sticking business after death of his father Shamas Khan said that his sale was significantly decreased in this spring after an increase in prices of saplings and rise of temperature besides salinity in districts that was directly located on banks of River Kabul.

    He said salinity at Charsadda, Nowshera and Peshawar districts mostly caused by the 2022 flooding have adversely affected plants’ sale business and many like him were thinking of switching over.

    “Except eucalyptus and poplar, the demands of conventional and ornamental plants have decreased in these districts due to fluctuation in rainfalls, desertification and salinity besides flood threats for young plantations.

    The plant’s nursery owners who brought varieties of species from Pathoki, Qasur district also complained about low sales this spring and feared economic loss if not sold out timely. “We have brought three plants load trucks from Pathoki against five trucks last spring and have hardly sold one truck plants due to sudden increase of temperature and converting lands into housing colonies,” said another plant seller Abdul Qadir who established a nursery at Tarnab.

    He said the increase in prices of ornamental plants at Pathoki, labour and transportation charges also contributed to a decrease in its sales in KP. “Salinity is limiting the productivity of crop plants because most species are sensitive to this environmental factor caused by high concentration of salts in the soil in low-lying districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said Gulzar Rehman, former Conservator of Forests KP while talking to APP.

    Taking a heavy toll on plants’ business and agriculture productivity, he said that salinity in soil and groundwater was causing substantial economic losses to the farmers, plant growers and putting food security at risk in the country where the population crossed the psychological barrier of 240 million.

     Gulzarur Rehman claimed that about 1.5 million hectares of land was being swallowed by salinity per year while about 6.5 million hectares was saline in Pakistan. “We can add USD 31 million to the national economy subject to making 6.5 million hectares slain land productive through afforestration in Pakistan.”

    He said around US$28.5 million loss suffered by the country in crop production due to salinity in 2017 while the total impact of annual economic loss was about US$300 million then. Declaring salinity and soil erosion was another casualty of floods, he said the average production losses of wheat was about 65 percent in the country in moderate saline lands, which was moving in an upward trajectory due to climate change weather patterns including a decrease in rainfall during spring.

    Gulzar Rehman underlined the need for massive afforestation, improved irrigation practices, drainage systems and soil management techniques that could help mitigate the impact of salinity and deforestation in the country especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

     “I planted eucalyptus on my five acres land to control salinity increased after 2022 devastated floods that also caused havoc to agriculture, livestock, fish and apiculture business,” said Muhammad Malyar Khan, a progressive farmer and resident of Mohib Banda in Nowshera district.

    He said the river Kabul has started swallowing precious agricultural lands of his area people due to the increase of water level owing to fast melting of glaciers that mostly caused flooding in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, resulting in massive economic loss to the poor farmers and villagers.

    Fazle Elahi, Chief Conservator of Forest KP said that Pakistan was among the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change where the 2022 torrential rains and flooding submerged most part of the country besides affecting over 33 million people and 8.2 million left their homes.

    Afforestation in floods vulnerable districts and plant businesses are being promoted to offset climate change effects, he said. To combat climate change and salinity, he said that 12.112 million saplings would be planted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including 4.999 million in central southern region-I Peshawar, 3.806 million in northern forest region-II Abbottabad and 3.784 million in Malakand forest region-III Swat during spring season.

    To achieve the set target, he said that about 4.885 million saplings would be planted through forest department, 3.766 million through farm forestry, 0.193 million through the mass plantation, 0.714 million trough village development committees, 1.308 million through defence forces, 0.611 million through educational institutions and 0.395 million through sowing and dibbling during the spring season.

    Green growth strategy has implemented with silent features including increasing existing forest cover area by four percent, supplementing natural regeneration in 6,250 forest enclosures spreading on 250,000 square feet area in under stock forest, bringing additional area through planting 107,970-hectare area, reducing emission through REDD-plus and establishment of a knowledge park.

    The Forest Chief said the chief minister has announced the launching of a billion trees afforestration plus program to counterbalance the effects of climate change, desertification and salinity.

    He informed that 707.36 million saplings were planted under the 10 billion trees project till December 31, 2023 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Fazal Elahi said tree plantation was a continuing charity with enormous benefits and if every person sowed two plants in a year then 880 million seedlings could be sown in the country.

    He urged the masses to come to the offices of their respective divisional forest officers to obtain free-of-cost plants and fulfill their moral obligation.

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