LAHORE: With a mission to promote awareness among people about earth’s natural environment, biodiversity and ecosystem, International Earth Day was observed across the city on Friday. Under the theme of “Trees for Earth”, the day signified the importance of trees in our surroundings as well as broadening the horizons towards planting trees. Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22, where events are organised across the world to show support for conservation of the environment and to highlight critical environmental issues. It was first celebrated in 1970. Unfortunately, Pakistan is facing a lot of environmental issues including pollution, global warming, deforestations, deprivation of natural resources and diverse condition of marine environment. As a result of cutting down the trees, global warming has been increased. Trees on the other hand protect environment from such destruction.Due to increasing environmental awareness and education, positive role of the media and decision makers, the annual deforestation rate in Pakistan has decreased to 1.6 percent per annum, according to a 2012 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as compared to 2.1 percent per annum (once the highest in Asia) according to a 2009 report by the FAO. WWF-Pakistan celebrated Earth Day by carrying out tree plantation drives to raise environmental awareness while symbolically tackling deforestation.WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi Khan said, “The theme for Earth Day this year is ‘Trees for Earth’, which stresses the need for every individual, businessman or policymaker to take action to protect the natural assets and resources of our beautiful country. This movement is celebrated in more than 192 countries to raise awareness and highlight critical environmental issues facing us today. Taking this opportunity, WWF seeks your support to mitigate pollution, curb deforestation and manage our water resources on priority to enable us live in harmony with nature.” An event was also organised in collaboration with Beaconhouse School System, Johar Town Junior Campus, where Earth Day was celebrated through a thematic environmental puppet show. Exhibits were made by students from recycled material as a gesture to reduce their ecological footprint. All the students of the school pledged to protect the earth and planted saplings on the occasion.Tree plantation drives aim to sensitise students to reduce their carbon footprint and burden on the environment. Various other schools, colleges and universities that have partnered with WWF-Pakistan’s Green School Programme and International Eco-Internship Programme also participated in the Earth Day tree plantation drive. Similarly, an awareness raising activity in collaboration with the US-Pakistan Youth Council was arranged at Forman Christian College. The Government College University’s Environment Protection Society (GCUEPS) and Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) jointly celebrated the Earth Day by holding ‘Inter-university Painting Competition’ at the university’s Sustainable Development Study Centre (SDSC). A large number of students from different educational institutions displayed their artwork on the themes of pollution, climate change and trees for the earth. The competition was aimed at raising awareness among students about the environmental issues.Speaking on the occasion, GCUSDSC Director Dr Amtul Bari Tabinda said that a strong political will was required to protect the earth against climate change. Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) senior manager Aoun Mehdi pledged that WAPDA would continue to extend its support and collaboration to GCU for organising such healthy awareness activities. The Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) celebrated ‘Earth Day’ in collaboration with Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) to highlight the importance of trees and their dire need in Pakistan. Punjab Environment Minister Zakia Shahnawaz and EPD Secretary Iqbal Muhammad Chuhan were the chief guests of the event. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director General Dr Javed Iqbal also graced the event along with LCWU Head of Environment Department Prof Dr Arifa Tahir, and PU Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) Principal Prof Dr Sajid Bashir.Zakia Shahnawaz said trees are protectors of the environment and save earth from a range of devastating problems. They purify air by absorbing pollutants, prevent flooding, filter water and provide habitat for biodiversity. “Rapid deforestation and change in land use is triggering climate change, disrupting climatic patterns, glacier melting, sedimentation, deterioration of water catchment areas, species migration and extinction, desertification and many other environmental and social problems,” she added. The minister said that the governments as well as environmentalists have some major challenges to fight and overcome. She emphasised that the civil society must join hands with government in its efforts to control environmental pollution, besides discouraging deforestation at every level. “It is our collective responsibility to provide our coming generations with the pure and hygienic environment,” she added.