Dr. Amna Asad, Prof. M. Iqbal Afridi, JPMC Karachi
Conocarpus, a non- native plant species in the mega city of Karachi, is a mangrove plant which was planted extensively from 2008 onwards in the metropolis. Around 2.2 million trees were planted by the City District Government of Karachi, with high cost for each plant.
However, false information regarding this plant is being circulated largely through the social media which lacks scientific data such as research-based result with reference to experts’ names, and also a fabricated decision of the Sindh High Court order claiming its plantation illegal. This has led to extreme measures in removal of these trees from their current habitat. Similar phenomena regarding plantation policy occurred when large number of Eucalyptus plants were placed, and later officially destroyed, as they were considered as environmental hazards.
Karachi majorly suffers from a shortage of trees and green spaces, and the sudden and extensive removal of the conocarpus species will contribute to scorching temperatures. Thus, the chopping of these mature trees (atleast a decade old) needs to stop and their further plantation avoided.
The rising temperatures of the metropolis are not due to the widespread conocarpus plantation, but actually a result of the ‘Urban heat island effect’ which is caused mainly by high-rise concrete buildings and black bitumen roads that absorb and trap solar radiation during the day.
Fortunately, on the occasion of the 71st Independence Day, people of Pakistan realized the importance of a green environment, leading to a massive plantation drive throughout the country. The Department of Psychiatry initiated a similar drive much earlier in the institution, by planting more than 5000 plants and recently 500 moringa plants, which was facilitated by the administration of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi.
Therefore, it is suggested that the policy-makers should carefully evaluate their plan before execution, as these high-level decisions not only involve massive funding but also utilization of human resources. Hence, about 5 million trees of native species like Peepal, Amaltas, Gul Mohar, Barna, Neem, Coconut, & Moringa should be planted first to overcome the Conocarpus situation and restraint should be exercised in this intense & sudden removal of this exotic species.