ISLAMABAD: Planting trees in urban centres will prevent the recurrence of heatwaves in cities, the climate change minister said on Sunday.
While trees were chopped by hundreds in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to make way for metro bus and similar projects, the PML-N Senator Mushahidullah urged the federal and provincial forest officials to boost urban forestry at national scale to protect urban areas from heatwaves.
The newly appointed Federal Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah stated that planting trees in urban centres must be made an integral part of the spring and monsoon plantation campaigns to boost the Green Pakistan Programme (GPP).
The minister highlighted that urban forestry was the most viable and cheapest way to protect cities from becoming urban heat islands.
“Our cities and towns have now become hotter than their nearby rural areas,” Mushahid noted.
An urban heat island (UHI) effect was described as an urban or metropolitan area that was significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.
The minister noted that these natural waterways that snake through these urban centres provide natural cooling effect when wind passed across them during sweltering summer months. “But it is a matter of concern that most of the urban waterways have been encroached upon by land mafia in connivance with civil and municipal authorities,” he remarked.
Talking about numerous benefits of urban forestry, he says large urban trees are wonderful filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates.
“Large trees with widely spread thick canopy, when placed strategically, can help improve urban air quality by filtering it, remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from urban atmosphere and increase amount of the oxygen in it for improved public health,” he emphasised.
“Trees properly placed around buildings play a vital role in reducing air conditioning needs by 30% and save energy used for heating by 20–50%.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2017.