The trees we plant today will bear fruit after 30, 40 or even 50 years, explained horticulturist Tofiq Pasha. This is all the more reason to start planting today.
He and meteorologist Jawad Memon were invited on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Monday to talk about Karachi’s weather and what we can do to help.
One thing Pasha discussed is planting the right tree in the right place. Dismissing the notion of ‘environmentally friendly’ trees, he said no tree is an enemy of the environment but it could be planted in the wrong place. Some trees provide fruit while others provide shade and wood, he said. No tree is useless.
A video recently emerged on social media of temperature being measure beneath a tree and under the sun. The temperature beneath the tree was way lower but this is something even animals know, said Pasha. Why do we have to see a video of this to know that it’s cooler in the shade, he asked.
Some good trees to plant in Karachi are neem and sukh chain, he explained. They all provide shade and are good for the overall environment, he said. But just planting trees isn’t enough, he said, adding that the environment needs more ‘treatment’.
We must plant trees and also reduce our carbon emissions, he said. One tree won’t make up for all the carbon emissions we produce every day. A carbon emission is how much of an impact we’re having on the environment by burning of fossil fuels like natural gas, crude oil and coal. Using your stove a lot won’t be offset by planting a tree, explained Pasha.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop planting trees. Plant a lot, it will help in the next 20, 30, 40 or maybe even 50 years, he said. Today’s steps will bear fruit years later, he added. And this plantation shouldn’t be limited to Karachi. We need to plant trees all over, because climate change is a global phenomena, urged Pasha.
When we have storms in Karachi there’s no rain, just plastic bags floating around, he said. The entire environment has to be fixed, he said.
Memon said that in the last three to four years there has been a lot of change in Karachi’s environment. We see more negative change to come, he said.
Karachi’s weather was usually semi arid and now it’s becoming arid because of our lack of planning, he said. This is dangerous for our ecosystem, he added.
The strange weather the city experienced in the last couple of days was indeed because of Cyclone Vayu, Memon explained. Karachi’s wind pattern shifted from its normal southwest to southeast, he said. There are chances the cyclone will fizzle out and there is now no more threat to the city.
He also said that this monsoon, Karachi will receive below normal amounts of rain. This is why we should start preparing, he said, urging people to conserve water. Farmers should plan for two to three months of very little rain, he added.
Pasha said climate change is a natural phenomena and that we’ve seen it before, in the Ice Age. We have achieved in 100 years something that naturally takes 100,000 years to develop and now we will have to bear the consequences, he said. But forewarned is forearmed and we have to prepare, he cautioned.
Agriculture will be hard hit and we still have 220 million people to care for, he said. This preparation includes planting trees. If you plant trees, you must care for them too, he warned. This is the right time to plant trees in Karachi as seeds are falling from neem trees like rain, he added. But don’t plant trees in the heat, he said, giving the example of a newborn baby being thrust out into the burning sun. Wait until the saplings are two to three years old and then plant them in places where they will have enough space to grow. Remember, for the next 40 to 50 years, this will be their house, said Pasha.
He also said that before planting trees, you must make sure the ground is prepared for them. Use fertiliser and water the ground before planting the tree because once it is planted, it will suck up all the water in the ground, he said. Pasha also urged people to seek advice before planting trees.
The horticulturist also advised people on another way to cool down houses, especially for poorer people: whitewash their walls and roofs. The poor man can’t afford an air-conditioner, he said, so they can whitewash (use chuna on) the walls and asbestos roofs to bring the temperature down. This Rs200 chuna will help reflect heat and cool down their homes. He also urged people to leave water out in bowls for animals.
Memon, who runs the Facebook page Weather Updates PK, said that they have installed weather stations across the city and are monitoring the continuous changes in weather. We learn new things every day, he said, explaining that they learnt a lot from the recent cyclone. The Met department doesn’t have any equipment in the south of Karachi, he said, adding that it could learn a lot by installing new equipment. During the recent heatwave, the temperature recorded in the south of Karachi was 39 degrees Centigrade while the rest of the city recorded 40 to 41 degrees.
But the real feel in the south was 57 to 58 degrees, he said.