Gardener plants 4,000 trees in Pakistan in bid to help mitigate climate change

Sabir Gul, 69, prunes a plant in Karachi on Tuesday. Gul is hoping to make a difference in the climate-change war.  (AN photo)
Sabir Gul, 69, prunes a plant in Karachi on Tuesday. Gul is hoping to make a difference in the climate-change war. (AN photo)
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Updated 29 October 2021

Gardener plants 4,000 trees in Pakistan in bid to help mitigate climate change

Gardener plants 4,000 trees in Pakistan in bid to help mitigate climate change

KARACHI, Pakistan: It is more than five decades ago since Sabir Gul first arrived in Karachi from a small town in northwestern Pakistan but he still remembers the mild, cooling weather of the port city as he got off the bus to start a new life.

That was in 1968, but since then Karachi has become one of the planet’s climate hotspots, according to the World Bank. In April, the city and financial hub of the country had its hottest day since 1947 when the mercury rose to 43.6 degrees Celsius. In June 2015, 1,500 people died due to heat stroke and dehydration during a heatwave.

The Global Climate Risk Index 2020, issued by think tank Germanwatch, ranked Pakistan fifth on a list of countries most affected by planetary heating over the past two decades — even though the south Asian nation contributes only a fraction of global greenhouse gases.

Gul reckons there is only one way to fight the raging climate war: By planting more trees and taking care of the ones that exist.

HIGHLIGHT

Sabir Gul is on a mission to help bring down temperatures in Karachi by planting more trees.

In his quest to bring down temperatures in Karachi, the retired gardener has planted 4,000 trees in the city with the help of the former chairman of a union council and leader of the Al-Khidmat charity organization, Junaid Mukati.

“I worked as a gardener for 23 years, but when I retired, I thought I should do something for the people of this city. Then Junaid Mukati came up with the idea of developing green localities, and I told him it was the best thing we could do,” Gul said.

Together they planted thousands of trees. “Now I take care of them just like I take care of my children,” he added.

Scientists point out that as trees grow, they help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Trees also offer cooling shade in places such as Karachi, attract birds and wildlife, purify the air, prevent soil erosion, and clean water.

But in the absence of a massive tree-planting drive, officials fear Karachi will only get hotter and more unlivable.

“Karachi’s maximum daytime average temperature for the last 30 years is 32.51 degrees, and night-time minimum normal temperature is 21.67 degrees,” Pakistan’s Meteorological Department director, Sardar Sarfaraz, said.

But between 1991 and 2020, Karachi’s day and night temperatures increased by 0.77 and 1.53 degrees, respectively, he added. 

“With this prevailing trend, it is statistically expected that Karachi’s day and night temperature may rise by 0.3 degrees to 0.5 degrees Celsius in the next 10 years,” Sarfaraz said, figures he described as “alarming and severe.”

In 2018, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an ambitious five-year tree-planting program, the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, to counter the rising temperatures, flooding, droughts, and other extreme weather in the country that scientists have linked to climate change.

In June, the economic survey report said 350 million trees and 814.6 million plants were seeded in the country under the program.

In Karachi too, the capital of Sindh province, the provincial government said it had conducted several plantation campaigns. City administrator Murtaza Wahab told Arab News that several urban forests would be created in the city.

But more needed to be done, Gul said, and quickly. “Trees will benefit our coming generations. They are the best remedy against heat waves.”


Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger
Updated 8 sec ago

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

This year's Nobel Prize season approaches as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shattered decades of almost uninterrupted peace in Europe and raised the risks of a nuclear disaster.
The secretive Nobel committees never hint who will win the prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace. It's anyone's guess who might win the awards being announced starting Monday.
Yet there's no lack of urgent causes deserving the attention that comes with winning the world's most prestigious prize: Wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, disruptions to supplies of energy and food, rising inequality, the climate crisis, the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The science prizes reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of most. But the recipients of the prizes in peace and literature are often known by a global audience and the choices — or perceived omissions — have sometimes stirred emotional reactions.
Members of the European Parliament have called for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine to be recognized this year by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for their resistance to the Russian invasion.
While that desire is understandable, that choice is unlikely because the Nobel committee has a history of honoring figures who end conflicts, not wartime leaders, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Smith believes more likely peace prize candidates would be groups or individuals fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency, a past recipient.
Honoring the IAEA again would recognize its efforts to prevent a radioactive catastrophe at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the heart of fighting in Ukraine, and its work in fighting nuclear proliferation, Smith said.
“This is really difficult period in world history and there is not a lot of peace being made,” he said.
Promoting peace isn't always rewarded with a Nobel. India's Mohandas Gandhi, a prominent symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, was never so honored.
But former President Barack Obama was in 2009, sparking criticism from those who said he had not been president long enough to have an impact worthy of the Nobel.
In some cases, the winners have not lived out the values enshrined in the peace prize.
Just this week the Vatican acknowledged imposing disciplinary sanctions on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo following allegations he sexually abused boys in East Timor in the 1990s.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. A year later a largely ethnic conflict erupted in the country's Tigray region. Some accuse Abiy of stoking the tensions, which have resulted in widespread atrocities. Critics have called for his Nobel to be revoked and the Nobel committee has issued a rare admonition to him.
The Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 while being under house arrest for her opposition to military rule. Decades later, she was seen as failing in a leadership role to stop atrocities committed by the military against the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel committee has sometimes not awarded a peace prize at all. It paused them during World War I, except to honor the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1917. It didn't hand out any from 1939 to 1943 due to World War II. In 1948, the year Gandhi died, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made no award, citing a lack of a suitable living candidate.
The peace prize also does not always confer protection.
Last year journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in the face of authoritarian governments.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cracked down even harder on independent media, including Muratov's Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s most renowned independent newspaper. Muratov himself was attacked on a Russian train by an assailant who poured red paint over him, injuring his eyes.
The Philippines government this year ordered the shutdown of Ressa’s news organization, Rappler.
The literature prize, meanwhile, has been notoriously unpredictable.
Few had bet on last year’s winner, Zanzibar-born, U.K.-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books explore the personal and societal impacts of colonialism and migration.
Gurnah was only the sixth Nobel literature laureate born in Africa, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers. It is also male-dominated, with just 16 women among its 118 laureates.
The list of possible winners includes literary giants from around the world: Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Norway’s Jon Fosse, Antigua-born Jamaica Kincaid and France’s Annie Ernaux.
A clear contender is Salman Rushdie, the India-born writer and free-speech advocate who spent years in hiding after Iran’s clerical rulers called for his death over his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie, 75, was stabbed and seriously injured at a festival in New York state on Aug. 12.
The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glück in 2020 have helped the literature prize move on from years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an exodus of members. The academy revamped itself but faced more criticism for giving the 2019 literature award to Austria’s Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
Some scientists hope the award for physiology or medicine honors colleagues instrumental in the development of the mRNA technology that went into COVID-19 vaccines, which saved millions of lives across the world.
“When we think of Nobel prizes, we think of things that are paradigm shifting, and in a way I see mRNA vaccines and their success with COVID-19 as a turning point for us,” said Deborah Fuller, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington.
The Nobel Prize announcements this year kick off Monday with the prize in physiology or medicine, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and literature Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 7 and the economics award on Oct. 10.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor ($880,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10.


Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
Updated 11 min 35 sec ago

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
  • Russians have been trying to flee a military mobilization aimed at bolstering the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine

COPENHAGEN: Finland’s border with Russia was closed to Russians with tourist visas Friday, curtailing one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe for Russians trying to flee a military mobilization aimed at bolstering the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
Long queues were reported until midnight at the border crossings. Among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11 p.m., Finnish broadcaster YLE reported from Vaalimaa, one of the main border crossings between the Nordic country and Russia. Finland has the longest border with Russia of all European Union member countries.
With the exception of the one border crossing between Russia and Norway, Finland had provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen-zone visas.
The government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country’s international relations, and cited security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the “illegal” referendums arranged by Russia in parts of Ukraine and recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Russian citizens can still enter Finland for family reasons, study or work. Also, Russian political dissidents may seek to enter for humanitarian purposes.
As of Sept. 1, Finland slashed the number of visas — including for tourism purposes — issued to Russian citizens to one-tenth of the typical number, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Finnish border guards said they want a fence along the border with Russia, deeming it “necessary due to the changing security environment” in the Nordic country. Such a fence requires the approval of the Finnish Parliament.
The fence would not run the entire 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) length of the border, but shoudl be in “riskier areas, such as border crossings and their nearby areas,” the border guards said.
Norway said Friday it was considering imposing an entry ban for Russians with Schengen visas. The Scandinavian country has a border in the Arctic with Russia which is 198 kilometers (123 miles) long. The sole crossing point is at Storskog.
“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said.


Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears
Updated 30 September 2022

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Gunfire rang out early Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital and the state broadcaster went off the air, sparking fears of a mutiny nine months after a military coup d’etat overthrew the country’s president.
It was not immediately known where Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was in the West African country. He had given a speech the day before in Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso.
Last week, Damiba had traveled to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly as the country’s coup leader-turned-president.


At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
Updated 30 September 2022

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.


Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
Updated 30 September 2022

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.