Islamabad: Pakistan has announced plans to use drone technology for its ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami’ project to fight climate change.
As part of the country’s strategy to use drone technology to plant millions of trees and strengthen the ‘Clean Green Pakistan Movement’, the Ministry of Climate Change signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) on Thursday.
Under the new agreement, the NRSP will support country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project using smart drones to tackle Pakistan’s major deforestation problem by planting trees economically and more efficiently as compared to hand planting.
The new technology can also help to plant trees in hard-to-reach areas that have no roads or inaccessible terrain, as there is no heavy machinery involved.
The agreement was signed by Irfan Tariq, director-general in charge of environment in the Climate ministry, and Rashid Bajwa, CEO of NRSP.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam witnessed the signing.
Additionally, a Rs100 million (Dh2.65 million) ‘Challenge Fund for Climate Smart Projects’ will be launched, to encourage youth engagement in climate-smart activities.
“Funding will be based on innovative ideas that have already been tested and have shown demonstrable impact on communities,” Aslam said.
He also said Prime Minister Imran Khan would be launching the Spring 2019 Tree Plantation Campaign on February 9.
Pakistani environmentalists welcomed the drone plantation plan but some were sceptical about prospects of success . They urged proper monitoring and management.
Talking to Gulf News, Umer Saeed, the Executive Director at Mohammad Ali Saeed Foundation that has planted more than 34,000 all over Pakistan, said, “Drone plantation is a great idea if properly managed and implemented.”
“Drones can plant trees in unreachable areas, but the real challenge is to ensure maintenance in those areas,” Saeed said. “Planting trees is not hard. The crucial part of the forestation project is the post-plantation monitoring and management.”
He also urged that government to “ensure that only native plants are planted” for social, economical and ecological benefits.
Mome Saleem, programme coordinator Ecology at Heinrich Boll Stiftung Pakistan, echoed similar views.
She termed the drone use a “good initiative but remarked, “The most important factor will be the seed survival rate. Planting with drones is faster but we must ensure sustainability.”
Drones are touted as useful flying farmhands as they are faster, effective and precise.
The use of drones is increasing in developing countries as Philippines recently announced to test crop-spraying drones on vegetable farms while India is piloting a similar project on cotton farms.
Pakistan can also benefit from the technology to “achieve the goal of massive tree plantation in the country with limited human resources” Imran Khalid, an Islamabad-based environmentalist, told Gulf News.
He also added, “drone technology can be very useful in terms of monitoring the plantation and ensuring the maximisation of success rate.”
The use of new technologies can help Pakistan improve its forest cover that is less than 3 per cent of its land area due to decades of tree felling.
The initiative will also boost country’s response to climate change as the South Asian country ranks seventh on the list of the countries mostly likely to be affected by global warming.