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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday launched the largest tree plantation campaign aimed at planting 3.5 million saplings in a single day throughout the country.

Speaking at a ceremony here, he stated that Pakistan was among the top ten countries most affected by climate change. "Our wheat production has fallen over the past two years due to climate change and unprecedented rainfall," he added.

He continued that if we keep continuing on this path, then some of the areas will become deserts, adding it is our responsibility to make the country green for future generations.

"The 3.5 million saplings that we have planted today is just the start.

This is a constant, ongoing battle, but we're not doing this for us. We're doing it for the coming generations," he said.

Vowing to plant trees in empty spaces in cities, he that this is just the beginning as this is a long battle, but the good thing is that we have started the process.

The prime minister also urged women to participate, adding the women have to participate the most as this is how we can achieve the goal of planting more and more trees in the country.

He said that in addition to making the country green, the nation also had to focus on cleaning the country's rivers.

"So first we have to make the country green by planting trees, but simultaneously we also have to focus on cleanliness and make our rivers clean once again. Planting trees will also help in cleaning our climate and lessening pollution."

The prime minister concluded his speech by addressing the Tiger Force volunteers. "You are our future. The work you did today, you did it to improve your own and the country's future."

He also lauded them for the role they played in supporting the government's coronavirus response.

"Today Pakistan is among those few countries that have successfully managed to control the pandemic," he said, adding that the world now recgonises Pakistan's successful strategy.

He also urged the nation to refrain from flouting standard operating procedures (SOPs) just because the number of cases was falling.

"Wear a mask every time you leave the house," he said, adding that not wearing one would amount to being ungrateful.

He also appealed to Shia community to take precautionary measures during Muharram processions, adding this is a time for precaution in order to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The PM said that many of the areas in the country will turn into desert which will lead to poverty if we did not take measures to overcome the effects of climate change.

"I want to congratulate Tiger Force that they planted 3.5 million plants in one day which is highest number in the country's history," he added.

The premier said the country has started to feel the adverse impact of climate change in the shape of low wheat production due to untimely rains.

The government has also introduced a 'green selfie' feature in the Corona Tiger Relief Force (CRTF) application to allow volunteers to upload photos while participating in the nationwide plantation drive.

The application reportedly features a geo-tagging option as well enabling users to share their live location and the number of saplings planted.

Inviting citizens to participate in the drive, the prime minister had said that increasing Pakistan's forest cover is essential to save the country from the imminent disaster of climate change.

Earlier, the World Bank expressed its interest to provide $188 million to fund the upcoming Ecosystem Restoration Initiative aims at implementing the 'Ten Billion Tree Tsunami' and 'Recharge Pakistan' programmes.

The $188 million fund will be placed under the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF), as it already has a framework and mechanism in place for quick and efficient disbursement of the money.

Meanwhile, the special assistant to the prime minister on youth affairs Usman Dar, who also heads the Tiger Force, also invited political leaders across the spectrum to join the plantation drive. He urged all to set aside political differences for the sake of national interest.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020