Friday, October 03, 2014

Can't See The (de)Forest(ation) For The Trees? - IMRAN™

I love trees. I love and grew up on and near rivers, waterways, and canals, since my late father, Chaudhry Anwar-ud-din, was in the Irrigation Department. He and my late mother, Nargis Anwar, always loved to plant trees wherever we went. We used to drive along remote parts of Punjab along private department-owned roads, with trees dotting the landscape, but never seeming to be enough for the levels of forestation the country needed.

So I was intrigued by an article written by a columnist in News International -- a newspaper that I had helped the Jang Group's owner launch almost exactly 25 years ago, on October 1, 1990 I think it was, and in which I have been published and written about many times in the past.

The writer was commenting on the trees that have had to be cut along some major roadways that now connect an ever expanding city of Lahore, catering to an ever growing population. But his slant was about criticizing the political leadership, with whom he and others may have other differences.

I am sure the political leadership, at the federal and all provincial levels, in Pakistan leave much to be desired and need to be held accountable. But complaining about trees along just one particular road may seem to be driven by people whose home values may be impacted by such trees being cut. But that is just conjecture on my part.

In my opinion, having escaped death many times on the roads of Pakistan, narrow, poorly lit road cause millions of hours of delays, health issues for people stuck daily among idling engines pouring smoke and poisonous fumes in the air, and cost hundreds of lives in traffic accidents. Those are far bigger issues than saving some trees that happened to line Canal Bank, a popular road in Lahore that is now almost a central artery. This is a road I used to go drive on after late nights in the Jang office, and it would be almost like driving on a private country road late at night. Today, you could go miles beyond what was then wilderness and not run out of homes and communities still springing up.

When I was living in Pakistan, first studying at Aitchison College in the late 1970s and later working at Jang Lahore, The Mall (Road) was narrow but wonderfully tree-lined. I did mourn the trees that had to be taken down over the years to expand that roadway. But as population and traffic increase, and a city built for a few horse carriages is now teeming with millions of vehicles, expanding roads is a sad fact of life. That applies not just in Pakistan but everywhere.

The writer mentions some activists opposed to these trees being cut. I believe the "do-gooders", as the writer calls them, would serve the nation, economy, ecology and environment of Pakistan far more by focusing on efforts to plant more trees nationwide, not just trying to protect some along a busy road that will only get busier.

Deforestation is a global problem. What Pakistan has always lacked is enough trees. I believe that with enough people working together, that is the problem that needs more attention than a particular set of trees, In My Humble Opinion.

Imran Anwar

No comments: