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Urban forestry vital for tackling urban warming: Climate Change Minister

Islamabad, August 06, 2017 (PPI-OT): Federal Climate Change Minister, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, on Sunday urged the federal and provincial forest officials to boost urban forestry at national scale to protect urban areas from heat waves and from becoming heat islands.

He told the forest officials, “Planting trees in urban centres must be made integral part of the seasonal monsoon and spring tree plantation campaigns and Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme (GPP) being implemented by the climate change ministry in collaboration with provincial forest departments to avert growing threat of heat island effect in urban areas that costs both lives and people’s livelihoods.”

The minister highlighted that urban forestry was the most viable and cheapest way to protect Pakistan’s urban areas from becoming heat islands. “Our cities and towns have now become recently hotter than their adjoining or nearby rural areas for various reasons and increasing green areas and planting more trees in the cities and towns is the most effective and cheapest way to cope with heat island effect that poses risk to lives and livelihoods in urban centres of the country,” Mushahidullah Khan noted.

An urban heat island (UHI) effect is described as an urban or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. Quoting a study of the UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO), the climate change minister Mushahidullah Khan said planting trees in urban areas could help cool the temperature by between two to eight degree Celsius. This would help cut use of air conditioners by more than 30 percent, use of which is one major cause of the urban warming.

Counting key causes of the heat island effects, he said removal of green areas, rapid rise in motor vehicles, soaring building construction activities, modification of land surfaces, emission of heat from air conditioning units and encroachment on natural waterways or rainwater drains have converted the urban centres into heat islands, making them unliveable.

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 sorry that most of them have been encroached upon by land mafia in connivance with civil and municipal authorities,” the climate change minister Mushahidullah Khan 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 emphasized.

Referring to international studies on urban forestry, the minister Mushahidullah Khan said, “Trees properly placed around buildings play a vital role in reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save energy used for heating by 20–50 percent. Besides, these trees provide habitat, food and protection to plants and animals, re-vitalising ailing urban biodiversity of the country.”

The Minister pointed out that stress and blood pressure are major ailments found among urban dwellers. However, these public health issues can be also significantly mitigated with the help of growth in urban trees. “Health and environment experts have already proved that spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress,” he said.

For more information, contact:
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92-51-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Website: www.mocc.gov.pk

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