Archbishop Joseph Coutts plants the first tree of Caritas Pakistan's "one million trees" campaign. (ucanews.com photo)
As smog gives way to dense fog in Punjab, Caritas Pakistan kicked off its "one million tree campaign" to raise climate change awareness.
The three-year effort aims to involve Caritas beneficiaries, volunteers and students in planting trees around the country. Punjab Forest Department has already pledged to sell plants to the Catholic charity at a 75 percent discount.
"The basic philosophy is to train people in not only planting trees but also how to take care of them," said Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan (CP).
"We will generate local funds with existing resources and provincial governments. The campaign will complement all existing Caritas projects especially food security, livelihood initiatives and disaster risk reduction," he said.
"Farmers are being asked to adjust their sowing patterns according to the weather but many still consider bad crops as God's will," Amjad added.
He was speaking at the sidelines of Caritas Pakistan's 51st anniversary held on Dec. 14 at the Renewal Center in Lahore. Two Catholic bishops joined environmentalists to underline the importance of addressing climate change in their address to about 100 Caritas staff and volunteers.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts chairman of CP spearheaded the initiative by planting an olive sapling.
"Destruction of trees continues in Lahore, once called a city of gardens, in the name of development projects. The Punjab chief minister must keep his promise to restore green belts on roadsides. Our campaign is not about religion but the whole nation," the archbishop said.
Environment experts blame increasing pollution for the winter smog. Locals have reported eye and throat infections as a result. Pakistan Meteorological Department said that smoggy weather conditions would continue throughout December
With annual floods, Pakistan is the eighth country most vulnerable to climate change in the world. Worse still, environment experts say the country may run out of water by 2025.
"Brick kilns, traffic jams and the construction of a new train line in Lahore is responsible for the smog. Caritas' campaign is the most simple and easy way to improve air quality," said Dr. Saamia Saif executive director of Environmental Consultancies and Options.
The climate change desk of Caritas Pakistan ran 20 awareness sessions in parishes and communities last year. The organization also installed 612 fuel-efficient stoves in 22 regions around the country. They also planted 10,000 saplings.
Watch this short ucanews.com video for more on the launch of the "one million tree campaign":