Pakistani nature enthusiast Ghulam Rasool also teaches students at nearly 100 schools how to take care of plants in his hometown. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: “I am on a mission to plant one million trees in Pakistan in 2022,” said Ghulam Rasool, the Pakistani man who inspired many during his 2019 countrywide bike cleanliness and plantation drive.

Four months into the year, he has already planted and distributed half a million trees across the country with students, farmers and fellow citizens and is determined to achieve the goal of planting one million trees in one year. “We have already completed the milestone of planting 560,000 trees,” Rasool told Gulf News.

Ghulam Rasool, 46, hails from Pak Pattan, the city of the great saint in Punjab. “Most of the trees have been planted in or around Pak Pattan but I send over saplings to anyone anywhere in the country who sends a request for plantation.”

He encourages people to grow fruit trees as it provides healthy food besides creating beauty in our surroundings and cutting air pollution. He has promised to provide one fruit tree to every household of Pak Pattan city during the 2022 plantation campaign. He has planted nearly one million trees and has distributed thousands of saplings free of cost during his lifetime.

Raising environmental awareness

Rasool and his fellow nature enthusiasts are not only planting trees but also ensuring regular watering and maintenance. “Planting is just the beginning. The important thing is to continue good tree preservation and maintenance practices, else we will lose these natural assets.”

Taking care of the already existing trees is another task he is currently working on. In his hometown, he is also teaching kids at nearly 100 schools how to take care of plants. He advocates that every schoolchild must plant trees. “It is extremely important that our kids are aware of the significant value of trees and the environment. This awareness is key to help reduce environmental threats and tackling climate change.”

Rasool has successfully conducted a solo 105-day bike tour from Khunjerab to Gwadar and 73-day cleanliness and plantation tour in 2017. Image Credit: Supplied

2022 ambitious green plan

When asked about his ambitious green plan for 2022, Rasool shared that besides planting one million trees across Pakistan, he aims to bring environmental awareness to schools and homes in villages, towns and cities all over the country. “This will be the biggest ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ environmental campaign in the country’s history” he claimed.

It will be a 150-day tour from Khunjerab (Gilgit-Baltistan) to Gwadar (Balochistan) in a camper van. Along the way travelling from the country’s extreme north to the south, he would be cleaning major locations, planting trees and distributing saplings.

During the tour, Rasool would be visiting schools, public places, and tourist destinations where documentaries on environmental issues would be played on projectors to raise public awareness. Rasool, who is passionate about protecting the environment, belongs to a low-income household and has requested government, private organizations and individuals to support his ‘Clean and Green Pakistan 2022’ tour. The 150-day tour will cost minimum Rs3 million ($16000).

Rasool has promised to provide one fruit tree to every household of Pak Pattan city during the 2022 plantation campaign Image Credit: Supplied

Rasool has successfully conducted a solo 105-day bike tour from Khunjerab to Gwadar and 73-day cleanliness and plantation tour in 2017. His campaign is focused on achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15) which aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”

What inspired him?

In 2017, when he visited his favourite waterfall in the northern region, Rasool was distressed to see that the region’s pristine lakes and green valleys are being degraded with the piles of garbage, especially plastic bottles, due to mass tourism and poor waste management. “I decided that if no one else is going to do it then I will,” and that was the beginning of his mission to clean the garbage around the tourist destinations. He also uses social media to educate and spread awareness about climate change.

Massive plantation and strict deforestation laws

Rasool is extremely worried about trash tourism, creating water, air and noise pollution in Pakistan. “It is adding to climate change, which is going to get worse by 2026, which means more droughts, heatwaves and extreme weather. Water is already scarce in Pakistan. We must act now,” he pleaded. He has requested the government to introduce strict laws and heavy penalties to prevent deforestation, punish the timber mafia and make tree plantation mandatory for all citizens.