Magazine article Geographical

Taking Root: Deforested for Years, the Swat District in Pakistan Wants to Plant One Billion Trees

Magazine article Geographical

Taking Root: Deforested for Years, the Swat District in Pakistan Wants to Plant One Billion Trees

Article excerpt

High peaks, glaciated valleys and coniferous forests. No, this isn't the Alps, this is the Swat district in northeast Pakistan. Nicknamed the Switzerland of Asia, Swat is home to moist temperate coniferous forests similar to those found in north-west America and Scotland. However, in a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, the district's forests have been reduced from vast, green swathes to isolated fragments. Now, only four per cent of its woodlands are intact.

To combat this, the 'one billion tree tsunami' has been proposed by the local government to revitalise and protect the forests. One billion saplings will be planted to convert 30,000 hectares of land into forest every year until 2018. While it is a grand and over-ambitious initiative, it represents an overall transition in Pakistan from the idea using trees as revenue to using trees as natural capital.

Much of the reforestation will take place in the upper valleys, which have suffered the most logging. 'For the last 35 years, Swat has been home to millions of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people from other parts of Pakistan,' explains Claude Rakisits, non-resident senior fellow at the Washington-based South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council. …

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