A good news story from Pakistan … think trees

I don’t usually post a story straight from a news source, but I really want to share this one, and many (aka most) readers don’t follow links to external sources.  So rather than simply provide this link to Tik Root’s inspiring story in the Washington Post, Pakistan’s mission to plant 10 billion trees across the country, in photos, I’m going to share the article in full.  I’m including a few photos from the article, but I encourage you to take the time to click on the article and admire the many other photos.


For me this article stands out as a good-news story on taking climate change seriously and also provides the chance to view Pakistan through a non-political lens.  It’s a story about people taking concrete steps to mitigate climate change, something we all need to be doing.  And doing so in a country that has many other challenges consuming their limited resources.  In the past few weeks, as Afghanistan has fallen into a cycle of despair in the aftermath of questionable exit strategies on the part of the United States, the only thing the western world has been hearing with respect to Pakistan is its unsettling relationship with the Taliban.  But what do many of us really know about this diverse country of more than 225 million people, the 5th most populous country in the world?  A country with a long, complex history within a very complex part of the world.  A country with historical ties to the people in Afghanistan, and a country buffeted by the competing interests and influences of India, Russia, China, and Iran.  It’s complicated, folks, just like everything else the world is dealing with.


I hope you find this article as interesting as I did.

August marks the beginning of monsoon season in Pakistan, and with the rain comes another busy stretch for the country’s ambitious tree-planting program.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, residents of all stripes, from government officials to Boy Scouts, fan out along the hills. They bring with them chinar tree saplings — which can grow to nearly 100 feet tall — along with other varieties, and they begin digging.

It’s all part of an effort that started in 2015, when Imran Khan — then a provincial politician and now Pakistan’s prime minister — backed a program dubbed a “Billion Tree Tsunami.” The initiative reached its province-wide target in 2018 and was so successful that federal officials expanded the drive nationally in 2019 with a new goal of 10 billion trees — or, the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami.”

“Everyone is waking up and starting to plant,” lawyer and environmentalist Hazrat Maaz told The Washington Post at the time.

The program addresses Pakistan’s history of deforestation as the country confronts the realities of climate change in the form of hotter temperatures, melting Himalayan glaciers and intensifying monsoon rains.

“It makes us very vulnerable,” Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan’s federal minister for climate change, said in a recent phone call. He has overseen both the provincial and national planting campaigns. “The cheapest, most effective and quickest way to fight climate change is to plant trees,” he said.

Direct planting, Aslam explained, accounts for about 40 percent of the program’s new trees. Hundreds of thousands of people across Pakistan are working to nurture and plant 21 species, from the chir pine to the deodar — the national tree.

The other 60 percent come from assisted regeneration, in which community members are paid to protect existing forests so that trees can propagate and thrive. Protectors are known as “nighabaan,” and 11 individuals lost their lives fighting the “timber mafia” between 2016 and 2018, according to Aslam.

Whether planted or protected, trees capture and hold carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change — and combat erosion on steep landscapes in Pakistan that Aslam says are “almost like living on a slide.”

The latest tree “tsunami” appears to be on pace. The rate of new trees has gone up tenfold since the initiative began, Aslam said. He expects another 500 million trees by the end of this year, with a goal of around 3.2 billion by 2023. If the current ruling party — Movement for Justice — is reelected, the aim is to hit 10 billion trees by 2028.

Aslam says the initiative is engaging the next generation in the country’s battle against climate change.

“Young people get very excited when they hear about this,” he said. “It’s their future that we’re investing in.”



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25 Responses to A good news story from Pakistan … think trees

  1. Roy McCarthy says:

    Thanks for highlighting this heartwarming story Jane. It is proof that ordinary people can make a difference. If only the mega-corporations who are fuelling climate change would review their methods in the interests of everyone rather than their own stakeholders.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You are so right, Roy. If only. The one how is that they become responsive to climate change action because they realize that the public now gets it – finally. When addressing climate change becomes a commercial advantage the mega-corps might, just might, make the changes. Maybe.

  2. Thank you so much for promoting this positive image of Pakistan. Being a Pakistani, I know we have a long way to go but we are trying hard to be better and play our role in saving this planet.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I have friends and colleagues from Pakistan here in Canada, and I know that Pakistan has much to be proud of and encouraged about that we never hear about in the west. Keep up the good work!

      • agamjd says:

        As followers of the 3rd Part of Abrahamic Message Captured the Last Message of Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him)-Muslims in Pakistan have to heed our responsibility to Earth, its Creature, Its Land, Seas, & Skies including the Environment-I. Our Christian Brethren Should Listen to the Hymn in the Anglican Hymnal “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICkroFw_VYE)
        Islam also emphasized the importance of preserving the environment. This is indicated in the Quranic verses which urge humans to take good care of the environment. This is particularly so when humans themselves are created from one of the elements of the nature, which is soil.
        In the Holy Quran-Man is the vice regent of Allah (God Almighty) on Earth. At the end of life he or she will be questioned about how a person treated the environment. Islam also emphasizes the importance of preserving the environment.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Thank you for explaining the importance of respecting and protecting the environment in Islam, agamjd. Buddhism and Indigenous spirituality also consider environmental stewardship as central to their beliefs. It is a principle that we should all have at front of mind at all times. We have a lot to atone for in this regard.

  3. debscarey says:

    Thank you so much Jane for highlighting this positive aspect of Pakistan – a wonderful story to share more widely.

    In case you’re interested, we recently watched this programme about Afghanistan on the BBC iPlayer which I can highly recommend. In case you can view it, I’ve linked below (there is also a second episode). The presenter is a very interesting guy – the least interesting aspect being his failed bid for election as leader of the Conservatives (and so Prime Minister) which the current incumbent won.

  4. An amazing and uplifting story, Jane. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  5. A positive middle Eastern story for a change 🙂 TY for this.

  6. I wouldn’t think we’d get a positive development from that part of the world. It’s heartening to read. Thanks, Jane. – Marty

  7. barryh says:

    Thanks, Jane. Wonderful story!

  8. Pingback: A good news story from Pakistan … think trees — Robby Robin’s Journey – Musings and Wonderings

  9. Thanks for posting, now if we could do a similar thing here at home especially in the clear cut areas and cities. I read an interesting research article recently about the differences in temperatures on one street in LA, up to 10 degrees cooler on tree lined streets!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Hear, hear. Especially in the clear cut areas, and especially a diversity of trees rather than a single species that is planted specifically for more clear cutting.

  10. Linda Sprague says:

    Thanks for finding a positive news story about Pakistan. My opinions in on far too many areas are often formed from reading just headlines in the media.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Linda. I’m glad you felt that way, too. So many millions of people around the world just trying to lead their lives as best they can, and they get labeled simply in the geo-political context of the making of the power-seeking king makers on each side of every divide. And whatever side of the divide “our” power-seeking king makers are on, that’s the side we hear. If there’s no divide, inevitably someone will invent one to suit their needs. So sad.

  11. A very inspiring story! Thanks for sharing. I hope other countries take note and start planting trees.

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