Published Date: Apr 10, 2016
A First-Information Report (FIR) was filed by the Sindh government after 70 trees lining a greenbelt along Shaheed-i-Millat road were cut down on April 3 allegedly by a construction company, Superintendent Police Jamshed Masood Bangash confirmed on Sunday.
The incident comes as Karachi braces for another searing summer a year after a scorching heatwave claimed the lives of over 1,300 people in Sindh, with most of the deaths taking place in the metropolis.
KMC Deputy Director Nadeem Ahmad registered FIR 120/2016 on April 8 against a manager of the Gohar Group of Companies and others accused under sections 379, 427 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code read with offences under the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 in the Ferozabad police station.
Karachi Commissioner Asif Hyder Shah while speaking to the media regarding the incident said that the administration is already running a campaign against environmental degradation and the act of cutting down grown trees is a blow to the environment. He denied the involvement of any KMC official in the activity.
Read: K-Electric fined Rs10m for failing to handle heatwave crisis
Karachi ─ an ‘urban heat island’
Earlier in February, Karachi witnessed its hottest day of the month in over two decades as the mercury topped 36.5 degrees Celsius.
As the meteorological fallout from El Nino continues to affect the region, experts have warned that the coming summer could bring even more freak weather phenomenon, such as extreme heatwaves.
Dr Fahad Saeed, who leads the Environment and Climate Change Unit at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, earlier told Dawn that as a developing country, Pakistan was susceptible to the ‘urban heat island’ effect.
This phenomenon refers to cities or metropolitan areas that are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas due to human activities, such as industrial and commercial functions.
Dr Saeed’s research suggests that due to the El Nino and the weather changes it brings, freak heatwaves will become more and more frequent in Pakistan.
Read more: Karachi, an ‘urban heat island’
Living with heatwaves
Growing more trees is one way ─ in addition to tackling building design ─ that can help us adapt better to living with heatwaves which occur due to the ‘urban heat island’ effect.
A member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Rafiul Haq said last year he believes Karachi will gain some respite by planting and nurturing more trees ─ which he termed the "lungs of the city".
"The concrete buildings have compromised the city’s breathing and we need to grow trees to revive it," he had said.
According to Haq, trees are natural air conditioners. When the leaves transpire, they provide a cooling effect to the atmosphere.
Today, many urban planners and environmentalists says high temperatures can be managed by including a greater amount of open and green space in cities, providing shady spots (in the form of indigenous trees) and water fountains, and going back to vernacular architecture — ventilators, high ceilings and so on.