By: Saman Siddiqui
We the residents of Karachi dwell in concrete jungle and wait for Mother Nature’s generosity to ease our urban sufferings. And the Rehmat becomes Zehmat undoubtedly. How unbelievable it is for such a large city there is no proper planning and management. By looking at the current circumstances it seems to be sole reliance in trusting God’s plan.
As I sit by the window scrolling my news feed, the cool breeze of early monsoon blows softly. Monsoon has hit Karachi early this year, providing us temporary relief from scorching heated weather. Last week of June turned out to be record hottest, climate change affects cannot be neglected.
Coming back to news feed, I came across with tragic news. 125 years old Floss Silk Tree imported from Barcelona, Spain planted at Agha Khan University, Stadium Road campus fell off in after math of 29th June thunder storm. The tree was planted o 17th March 2013. Many people have visited, admired this one of a unique species and made photographic memories. But second thing which came to my mind was, what about the other trees of Karachi. How many still stand tall? How many still available to give shade to the pedestrians and shelter to the birds?
Haven’t you noticed dramatic decrease in the number of trees in Karachi, by the emergence of sky scraper buildings, sky line of the largest city of Pakistan lacks greenery and trees. Parks are diminishing not much of the green belt is left. Karachiites are familiar with the term china cutting, no need to elaborate here. And one can reasonably understand why no more trees and lush green parks.
How unfortunate, in construction of infrastructure green belts were ignored. To pave route for the green line bus in Karachi more or less 7,000 trees were cut down. Not long ago severe heat caused more than 1300 deaths. Concerned people, in the heat of moment, promised to plant more trees. But very little has been regarding this. When trees grow throughout urban areas, both surface and air temperatures are reduced. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees remove carbon dioxide and release oxygen into our air. The ideal planting season for trees is mid-February to mid-March and mid-July to mid-August. Trees can be planted at other times too but extremely hot or cold months should be avoided. And secondly do not just depend upon government and organizations to plant trees, individual effort is required now. The choice of the tree you plant also depends on where you plant it and the space available. This brings us to the consideration which type of plants can be planted in Karachi.
The best trees for the city are those that take less water and provide shade. It should be kept in mind what we will plant, needs to be watered regularly by us. Neem tree can be a best choice. It sucks water from underground and provides cool shade. A fully grown neem tree gives cool air equivalent to 81 air conditioners. Singapore government has plated such trees in the country which hhas reduced temperature to 2 degrees. As a blessing for future generations of Karachi, invest in planting trees. A neem sapling can be easily bought for Rs 50, from local nursery.
Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by at least30%, which could lead to reduction in heating and cooling cost.
Other sane choices can be Gulmohar (Flame of the forest), and Amaltas (Indian Laburnum). Indigenous varieties like Laal Badaam (Indian almond) and Jaamun (Syzygium cumini /jambolan) are also useful fruit giving trees that give shade. Lignum is also a good option; it looks pretty, and uses less water, but takes time to grow into a shade giving tree. As it is a medium sized tree, it is good to plant in areas where there are electricity wires above.
Urban vegetation can directly and indirectly affect local and regional air quality by altering the urban atmospheric environment. There are four main ways in which urban trees can affect air quality.1, by reducing temperature and other microclimatic effects. 2, by removing air pollutants. 3, Emission of volatile organic compounds and tree maintenance emissions, and 4, energy effects on buildings.
With space in our city is a premium, it’s only a matter of time before gardens went high density like buildings. In a vertical garden, vegetables, flowers and fruit all can be grown, upwards using columns, walls, trellises and arches. A relatively new idea, but well established overseas, vertical gardens can be used to transform a roof garden or balcony, create a wall feature in a courtyard, or form an indoor room divider. It should be made mandatory for builders to plant certain species on the land before handing it over to people.