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PHC seeks removal of eucalyptus from Malakand

PESHAWAR—The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday ordered the removal of eucalyptus trees from Malakand region in a phase-wise manner after the court found that it absorbs underground water.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan while hearing a petition submitted by senior lawyer, Muhammad Ajmal Khan, directed the government to replace eucalyptus and plant any other environmentally-friendly tree. “The eucalyptus tree absorbs more water so it should be removed,” the Chief Justice has ordered.

The chief justice said that eucalyptus have also been planted in Hayatabad, Lakki Marwat, Karak and other districts of the province.

In 2020, the Chief Justice had taken notice of a large number of eucalyptus trees in Hayatabad. The Justice had remarked that there is underground water shortage in Hayatabad and since eucalyptus absorbs underground water, therefore, it should be replaced with another eco-friendly tree. The judge had remarked that “There is scarcity of underwater and it is not available even through tube wells. Such trees should be planted along the banks of rivers instead of residential areas.”

However, the government officials are of the view that the under ground water has no threat from eucalyptus as the water level is too low in these areas, thus, eucalyptus would not be able to absorb it. The officials said that the government is implementing the Billion Tree Tsunami project under which 1 billion trees have been planted.

However, the court said that it will be better to plant poplar trees instead of eucalyptus as the poplar trees last a long time, beautiful looking and good for the environment. The judge remarked that trees are extremely important for the environment therefore we should only plant eco-friendly trees.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government last government (2013-18) had launched the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Programme, under the agenda of slowing down global warming through the Green Growth Initiative. The initiative was highly appreciated globally due to increasing green cover of the province. In 2019, the current federal government replicated the programme to plant 10 billion trees by 2023. The KP government will also launch Sheen Pekhawar trees plantation drive in provincial capital.

However, wrong choice of trees in places opened doors to more harm than good in certain respects. The trees planted were mostly non-native Eucalyptus and gum trees, rather than native fruit-bearing trees (whose produce would have added considerable economic benefits). In many environmentalists’ viewpoint, Eucalyptus trees are a hazard as they require more water than other plants, posing a threat not only to biodiversity of that region but for the entire country

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