Nurseries fostering profitable agriculture, greener Pakistan

By Naeem Khan Niazi

LAHORE, Mar 6 (APP): Pakistan has been facing grave challenges relating to environment such as pollution, water scarcity and global warming that cost it billions of rupees every year.

According to the latest report of the Environmental Performance Indicator (EPI), Pakistan is among the countries worst hit by environmental pollution on the Air Quality Indicator (AQI).

Carbon emissions, over-population and deforestation are the main causes of environmental challenges, and their only remedy is use of cleaner fuel and tree plantation, besides prudent use of resources.

According to the World Bank’s findings, 25 percent of the total land in any country must be forest covered. But, the situation in Pakistan is not satisfactory with the forest cover even less than just five percent and it may become further alarming in coming days with arid and barren lands causing floods and famines.

Cognizant of the situation, Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly highlighted the environmental challenges and started the Billion Tree Tsunami project to overcome them.
He also stressed on devising a long term strategy to cope with the challenge and made the Billion Tree plantation part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Miyawaki forest at Jilani Park (Racecourse Park) in February, Imran Khan said the forests like Chhanga Manga, Chichawatni, Deepalpur and Kundian had vanished due to official negligence and land-grabbing.

He said 70 percent of the green cover in Lahore eroded during the past one decade and nobody raised an eyebrow.

The PM said trees were vital to fight the climate change and global warming, and emphasized the need of an environmentally safe Lahore for future generations by planting more and more trees to restore its green cover.

He was appreciative of Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) Lahore Chairman Yasir Gilani for initiating the project of Miyawaki forest in the provincial metropolis with plantation of 13,500 plants at four different sites in the Jilani Park.

PHA Director General Jawad Ahmed Qureshi said the Authority had started work on the Miyawaki forest in the provincial metropolis a few months ago with a view to revive the city’s green cover as per the vision of prime minister and directions of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar.

He said efforts were being made to plant more and more trees in the provincial capital during the country-wide spring tree plantation drive. Different species of trees, including jamun, pomegranate, guava and different flower plants would be grown in the Miyawaki forests.

Miyawaki urban forests are the brain-child of Japanese botanist Prof Akira Miyawaki – plant ecologist – who specialized in restoration of natural vegetation of degraded lands.
The Punjab government is committed to plant trees and make the 10 billion tree project a success. It has been utilizing all resources to fight environmental pollution and climate change through plantation of trees on a large scale.

The provincial government has launched a programme to lay down forests in the province during the on-going spring plantation drive with a view to overcome environmental pollution and fight climate change as per the prime minister’s vision. The government needs to further explore and exploit all available modes to achieve the goal of growing trees.

Nurseries are of paramount importance in fighting environmental challenges as trees are the staple food for any plantation drive in a country while millions of trees will be required to meet the desired goal during the spring plantation drive.

Over the years, nurseries have emerged as prime source of flower plants, fruit plants, vegetable plants, ornamental plants, and medicinal and aromatic plants, besides the agricultural crop plants.Thus the nurseries promote non-conventional agriculture in the province and bring about huge profitability to the cultivators.

Nurseries have assumed the status of an industry today and in the big cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Multan, Quetta and Lahore, their mushroom proves the fact.

Pattoki, a small town in Kasur district near Lahore, is one of the largest hubs of nursery farms in Asia. As many as 8,508 small and large nursery farms exist here. The town is known as the ‘City of Flowers’ as it is the largest producer of flowers in the country. Dozens of villages around Lahore, Kasur and Pattoki grow rose plants and the flower business accounts for the livelihood of 40 to 50 percent families in the area.

The soil in Pattoki is rich in sandy loam which is exceptionally favourable to the plants as it carries sand, clay and silt. Sandy loam helps in good drainage and is preferred for gardening around the world.

Travelling on the Lahore-Multan G.T. Road, one comes across more than 186 nurseries on a 5-kilometer belt which produce seasonal plants, both winter and summer, of almost all species. The flower business has expanded beyond Pattoki now and these nurseries export plants and flowers to different countries including Dubai and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. High quality plants are imported from China, Malaysia, the United States, Holland and European countries by these nurseries as these exotic plants are in high demand in the local market.

Nurseries are not limited to the germination of ornamental and fruit plants but they also produce medicinal plants which are used for horticulture therapy and medicine manufacturing across the globe. Cut flowers are cash crops and regarded as cash crop for the growers while landscaping is also a profitable business. The nurseries also earn foreign exchange for the country through export of seeds and flowers.

Plants and gardening enthusiasts have shared that ornamental flowers and fruit trees are in great demand in rural and urban areas of the province but the exorbitant rates make them inaccessible to common man as private nurseries enjoy monopoly in the market.

The high prices of plants at these private nurseries discourage the tendency to grow plants.
The government controls multiple forest plantations in the province, but there is need to set up small nurseries in the cities and towns at the government level.

The availability of ornamental and other plants at cheaper rates at the government-run nurseries will embolden gardening enthusiasts, besides the general public to plant trees. These nurseries will further contribute to the revival of forests and green cover in the province and thus pave way to fight climate change in the country.