Satellite Image Shows Pakistan Among World's Fastest Greening Countries

Satellite images provided by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) show that greenery in Pakistan has been growing at double digit rates over the last few decades. All of this rapid greening of the country is the result of intensive agriculture in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

Greening Trends in Asia. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation,” said Chi Chen, the lead author of a study he did with Ranga Myneni at Boston University. “That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”

The Boston University research team found that "global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China. Overall, one-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner. The study was published on February 11, 2019, in the journal Nature Sustainability", according to NASA Earth Observatory.

Pakistan's arable land grew by about 600,000 hectares between 2014 and 2016, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  It increased from 36,252,000 hectares to 36,844,000 hectares. However, Pakistan has experienced deforestation in this period.  The area under forests has shrunk from 1,515,000 hectares in 2014 to 1.429,000 hectares in 2016.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan, then a politician whose party governed the Khyber PakhtunKhwa (KP) province, launched a program called the “Billion Tree Tsunami”.  Eventually, hundreds of thousands of trees were planted across the region, timber smuggling was virtually wiped out, and a cottage industry of backyard nurseries flourished, according to Washington Post.  Now, the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, is aiming to replicate that success nationwide with a “10 Billion Tree Tsunami.”

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Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s #Honey Production Up 70% Thanks to #ImranKhan's Billion #trees Project. About 400 tons, about 2% of demand, still imported every year. Tree planting will cut Pak import bill by half in the next 4-5 years. #beekeeping #environment #forests

The production of honey in the country has increased by seventy percent thanks to the plantation of hundreds of thousands of trees under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Billion Tree project.

The honey production initiative in Changa Manga was started in 2016 when the beehives were auctioned for Rs. 729,000. Now, they cost more than Rs. 1.3 million.

According to the Forest Department’s officials, the complete implementation of the project may increase the amount of auction money from Changa Manga to Rs. 10 million.

Shahid Tabassum, a Forest officer, mentioned that 85 percent of the trees have been planted in the past few years which has led to a remarkable increase in bees.

As for now, there are hundreds of beehives in the Changa Manga forest, he said, highlighting the increase in income from the honey auction.

In the financial year 2016-17, the honey was auctioned for Rs 729,000 and in 2017-18 for Rs1.15 million. Similarly, in 2018-19, the honey was auctioned for Rs 1.252 million, while during the current financial year the auction fetched Rs 1.3 million.

Locals of the forest describe how ruthless deforestation and in the past year and reduction in the green cover reduced the number of beehives quite significantly as honey bees found little to no place to make hives.

Also, the flowers which honey bees use to collect nectar became toxic due to spray of the pesticides, resulting in the deaths of thousands of bees.

This declined the production of natural honey by a significant margin, prompting people to consume processed varieties.

The forest officer informed that there are four types of honey bees currently found in Pakistan; Domna, Pahari, small and European. The first three kinds are local bees while European specie (Apis Mellifera) has been exported from Australia.

The best is the European bee because it produces more honey than others.

Tabassum revealed that a honeybee flies 3.5 million times and travels 50 thousand kilometers to produce half a kilogram of honey.

“Honeybees lay 15,000 eggs a day and 2.5 million in one season. They remember the flower scents while moving around and return with its help after accumulating honey in their stomachs.”

He maintained that about 400 tonnes of honey is imported to Pakistan every year. This is only two percent of the total demand.

Tabassum was hopeful that the tree plantation project will cut Pakistan’s import bill by half in the next four, five years.
Riaz Haq said…
Faced with climate change, Pakistani honey producers search for ‘plan bee’
Mehmood has tried to take various measures to improve his production. He has moved many of his boxes to Faisalabad to give the bees a more hospitable environment. Indeed, in the winter months that bring with them many new diseases that bees are susceptible to, Mehmood struggles to move his hives to the Punjab province. In summer, he tries to relocate them to places like Swat, Kalam, Chitral and Shandoor. He has also tried to place his beehives in fields of Arugula to help the bees survive the harsh cold and feed their offspring. Finally, he says, he has invested in modern medicine to heal bees hit by cold-related illnesses. But things have still remained tough.
“Previously we were generating honey for six seasons. Now it’s been limited to only two seasons,” said Noor Hasan, 55, who has worked as a bee specialist at the Tarnab Agriculture Research Institute since 1982.
Tarnab Farm in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is home to Pakistan’s biggest honey market, which exports about 4,000 tons of the commodity, worth nearly Rs 2.8 billion, to Arab countries every year. Berry and Acacia, commonly known as Palosa, are the most popular types of honey available in the market and commonly used by diabetics.
Pakistan used to export around Rs.15 billion worth of honey until 2004, which had sharply reduced to Rs.3 billion currently, according to Gul Badshah, senior vice president of the Bee Keepers, Exporters and Traders Honey Association.
At the moment Pakistan is only exporting honey to Gulf countries; European markets will remain at bay until Pakistan starts following international standards in honey production, Dr. Hussain Ali, a senior research scientist at Tarnab Farm, said: “And that can be achieved once we train our beekeepers and take precautionary measures to produce quality honey.”
Ali said Tarnab Farm was conducting research on the behavior, physiology and diseases of bees and how climate change was affecting them. He said deforestation was one of the major causes of reduction of honey in the country.
“That’s why we have lost some flavor of honey recently. Today we are seeing shortage of wild trees due to spraying on the fields, cutting of trees and urbanization. That’s why the business isn’t progressing,” Ali said. 
Honey business owners are optimistic that the government’s Billion Tree Tsunami scheme might help. The reforestation project has added 350,000 hectares of trees both by planting and natural regeneration, in an effort to fight the effects of climate change.
“Apart from the environment, this [reforestation] would be beneficial for the honey production where bees would work in modest temperature and be able to roam around more and more trees,” Mehmood said, adding that another step the government could take to help the honey business was training farmers about climate change and viral diseases prone to bees.

Riaz Haq said…
While much of Pakistan is under coronavirus lockdown, local police and district authorities have been told trucks carrying trees should be allowed to travel and villagers permitted to leave their homes to work with the project. The work, which pays between 500 rupees and 800 rupees per day, includes setting up nurseries, planting saplings, and serving as forest protection guards or forest firefighters. The program is expected to create over 63,600 jobs. The workers will maintain social distance.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan's tree-planting push in Changa Manga Forest has a sweetener: more #honey. Globally, there has been a drastic decline in bee numbers, largely due to intensive agriculture, pesticide use and climate change. #treeplanting #environment @deccanherald

When authorities started planting millions of trees in eastern Pakistan's Changa Manga Forest five years ago, the idea was to bring back life to forest land that had been destroyed by illegal logging, water scarcity and fires. Now that the trees have matured, they are having an even sweeter side-effect - helping to boost the local bee population and honey production in the area. As part of Pakistan's efforts to offset the impacts of climate change by rehabilitating forests, conserving soil and...

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