A local plantation drive aims to inculcate a sense of responsibility and ownership among students
n May 19, 40 young students decked in black uniforms and black caps, lined up near the Swat River passing at Kot, known as Hashtnagar, a historic place famous for a magnificent statue of Buddha. Wearing excited smiles, this group of students of a government primary school, had gathered to participate in a plantation activity at the Basic Health Unit, Charsadda, that was affected by previous year’s devastating floods.
The pre-moonsoon plantation drive had kicked off under the theme “own a tree”. Each student’s name and other details were written on a blue nameplate alongside the plants they had just planted, symbolising their responsibility towards nurturing and protecting the plants. The innovative approach not only created a sense of ownership among the students but also emphasised the importance of environmental stewardship from an early age.
The young students will take care of the plants for at least one year. With the support of students, the collaborative initiative was launched by the district administration of Charsadda, Education Department and the Forest and Health Departments. The objective is to emphasise the significance of environmental consciousness and active involvement of young minds in shaping a sustainable future.
As many as 20 girls and 45 boys from local government schools participated in the plantation drive at BHUs at Sarki Pul, Tarnab and Akhunderi. The students planted 300 plants. In collaboration with the district education officer, schools nearest to the BHUs were chosen for the activity. Other than the rehabilitation of BHUs in flood-hit areas, the World Health Organisation has established a play area, and refurbished 40 health facilities, and 20 labour rooms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Children are allowed to play in the refurbished BHUs and will look after their plants. After the completion of the one-year period, the students who have done after for their plants will be rewarded with gifts.
Several types of forest plants were provided by the Forest Department for the purpose. The Health Department provided the space at the BHUs. The ceremony, supervised by District Health Officer Farhad Khan, and supported by the WHO-Pakistan, aimed to instil a sense of ownership among students and encourage them to take care of the plants around them.
Charsadda is prone to floods as three rivers – Swat, Kabul and Jindi – flow through it, entering it at Nowshehra and emptying into the mighty Indus River near Attock. During the 2010 and 2022 super floods, the people of Hashtnagar living near these river banks were severely affected. Houses, bridges, crops along with other communication infrastructure were damaged.
Waqas Afridi, the Charsadda assistant commissioner, commended the plantation activity and proposed extending the programme to other primary and middle schools in the district. He emphasised the district administration’s unwavering support for such initiatives. “To educate the community about the importance of trees and their impacts on the environment, we are planning to extend the initiative to other BHUs and public schools in other sub-divisions of the district,” Afridi said.
Dr Farhad Khan, the district health officer, says that engaging students in plantation efforts was a significant step forward in their education. Recognising the crucial role students play in shaping the future, he emphasised the positive impact of plants on the environment, ultimately affecting our health and well-being.
The participating school children took a solemn pledge to diligently take care of their plants, underscoring their commitment to nurturing trees and contributing to a greener future. Muhammad Zubair Khalil, the district education officer, said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. He said that forestation was the need of the hour.
In Charsadda, 90 percent of land is dedicated to agriculture so that not a lot of land is available for forests. Fazal Bacha, the sub-divisional forest officer, (SDFO) acknowledged the challenges faced by the department in meeting the demands of forestation. He says that trees play a crucial role in safeguarding the area from the adverse effects of climate change and flash floods. “To control soil erosion along the banks of Swat River, we have planted trees. This reduces flood damage and safeguards agricultural land,” he says.
The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney