Is a Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative the Solution?
Qiyamud Din Ikram
Forests and plantations are important aspects of life and linked to human and world economy. According to WRI, more than 1 billion people depend on forests globally for their livelihoods. Forests also contain nearly 90 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Forests cover about 30% of the global land, under 40 million km2. The global forest cover is about 3.9 trillion hectares. In which 95% are natural forests and 5% plantations, 47% of the global forest area in tropics, 33% in the poles, 11% in the temperate zones and 9% in sub-tropical zones (FRA 2000). According to WRI research, 30 percent of global forest cover has been cleared, while another 20 percent has been degraded. Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15 percent intact. Forest plays a vital role in the sustainable development of any country. Over 2 billion people rely on forests. Forests provide jobs for more than 13 million people across the world. About 300 million people live in forests, including 60 million indigenous people.
The importance of forests and plantations cannot be underestimated. Why forests and plantations are important? Because we depend on forests and plantations for our survival and well-being, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Forests clean our air, our water, our soil and they regulate our climate, amongst many other things. Forests provide habitats to animals and livelihoods to humans including 60 million indigenous people. After ocean, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon. So, how can we forget forest ecosystem services? We cannot forget their invaluable and often invisible services, because forests not only provide watershed protection but also prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Let’s talk about the contribution of forests in the Earth’s ability to maintain its climate, by the global impact of their photosynthesis. They are absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide that produces climate change and generating oxygen. This assists in purifying the atmosphere and controlling rising temperatures. Similarly, forests are also providing clean water for drinking, bathing, and other household needs. It also offering food and medicine and serve as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls. Humankind derives many commercial benefits from forest ecosystems. Many medicines and pharmaceuticals have been discovered in plants native to forests. Local communities survive on plants and animals culled from the forests. Products that modern society depends on such as wood, paper, and bamboo all originate from forest ecosystems. Many other desirable products such as spices, gums, and dyes are also found in forests around the globe. Forests are important to humans for aesthetic reasons as well, and ecotourism is one way to use and promote the protection of forests in a sustainable manner.
In addition to that, Trees and plantations have a measurable impact on air quality, in particular by adsorbing pollutants such as Sulphur dioxide and ozone, intercepting harmful particulates from smoke, pollen and dust and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, thus reducing the incidence of diseases exacerbated by airborne pollutants. Trees can also reduce the noise pollution in urban areas through sound deflection and absorption and this can, in turn, improve the environment.
Although, some scientific studies revealed that contact with nature (natural clean and green environment) has significant benefits for our health. Spending time in natural environments make to relieve stress, increase immune function, and improve cognitive performance. Forest bathing is an important medication for many health problems. In some countries, forest bathing considered an important medication for health care. In Japan, the practice of shinrin yoku (“taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”) has become an accepted part of medical care. Doctors realize their stressed-out, overworked patients don’t need a pill, but a good dose of quiet, calm, meditative time in the forest. Today life bombards our brains with too much noise and overly stimulating digital information. Our bodies respond to this excess of stimuli with stress hormones like cortisol, which have undesirable impacts on health. Chronically elevated stress levels have been linked to hypertension, heart disease, depression, and obesity. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that people feel better and think better when they connect with natural environments.
Why we need a Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative?
Million & Billion Tree Initiative nowadays is a common initiative or strategy in more developing countries to restore the deforested landscape. Unlike many other countries, Afghanistan’s forest cover has reduced from the last few decades. The government should launch a Million & Billion Tree Campaign throughout the country for evergreen and prosperous Afghanistan. Through Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative, Afghanistan massive barren land and mountains will reinvigorate the area’s scenic beauty, promote the local economy, control the erosion, cleaning of air & water, mitigate the climate change, decrease the chances of floods and increase the chances of precipitation. Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative will assist in meeting present and future needs in the country and will provide multiple benefits for climate adaptation and mitigation in some very climate-vulnerable areas. In Afghanistan, trees and forests are not always associated with urban landscapes and the urban cities and its residents are facing various environmental challenges and their consequences. Million & Billion Tree Initiative would be the only sustainable and long term strategy for the country especially the urban cities to make them evergreen cities. Let’s take an example of the capital city, Kabul which is a concrete jungle and bowl like shape surrounded by barren mountains, among the most top air polluted city, lack of proper sanitation system and greenery and improper solid waste management. Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative will make the capital city more beautiful and help in the reduction of air pollution and their consequences on the residents. Greenery on the surrounded barren mountains and hills will add beauty to the city and make it a sustainable green and clean city. Million & Billion Tree Plantations can be started from the goodwill and full commitment of the government and its citizens.
Forest Conservation in Afghanistan
Scientific studies have shown that a large part of ancient Afghanistan was covered with forests. However, due to the last few decades of wars, natural disasters, and political instability, much of Afghanistan’s forest has been destroyed and degraded. With one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, Afghanistan’s forests are in urgent need of protection and conservation. Afghanistan is a semi-arid country with about 2% of its area under forest cover which is one of the lowest in the world. It should be noted that more than half of the forest cover of the country have been destroyed so far. As a result, a large percent of Afghanistan land could be subject to soil erosion and desertification. Most of the mountains of the country are barren brown in all direction.
The major threats to Afghanistan’s forest is uncontrolled and unsustainable cutting. Reasons for unsustainable commercial harvesting in state forests are:
- Illegal logging
- Timber exporting to a neighboring country (Pakistan)
- Collection of firewood
- Lack of political will and commitments
- Poor planning
- Unrealistic forest working plan
- Weak implementation of forest protection laws
- Lack of awareness about the environment and sustainable use of resources methods among the people
- Lack of fuelwood alternatives in rural areas
- Domestic cutting of forests for domestic uses
- Population pressure
- Uncontrolled use of pesticides
- Diseases and damages by insects
However, the Government of Afghanistan should start Million & Billion Tree Plantation Initiative to make the country an evergreen country to combat the climate change. Afforestation and reforestation projects should be initiated to restore the deforested landscapes through the country. There is a dire need of good policy and planning for sustainable forest management in the country. Government should stop the illegal cutting and export of woods to their neighboring country. Awareness programs for plantation and forest conservation and its importance are really necessary to be spread amongst the community. Plantations campaigns should be needed on a seasonal and annual basis at the community level along with environmental education and awareness to promote environmental stewardship and encouraging a sense of responsibility to the community people.
Shmurak, S. (2017, October 25). How to Take a Forest Bath? Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/how-to-take-a-forest-bath/
Forests. (1970, January 01). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://www.wri.org/our-work/topics/forests
The Importance of Forests. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/forests/importance_forests/