Profile: Shahzad Qureshi
Organization: Urban Forest Pakistan
Email address: Shahzad@urbanforest.pk
What was your personal motivation to plant your first forest?
Shahzad: In 2015, the city Karachi in Pakistan went through its first official heatwave, which claimed over 2000 lives in the city. It was a rude awakening for us to be losing so many lives in an already hot weather city. It was determined that one of the main reason for the heat was an extremely dismal coverage of trees in the city. Around that time I came across a solution on the Net on growing Natural Forests using Miyawaki Method and I thought I must try it! I requested Mr. Shubhendu Sharma, the man who made this method global, to come and help us plant a pilot forest.
Can you describe the surroundings of your first forest, what type of place did you convert?
Shahzad: For our pilot forest, we chose an abandoned public park so that people can regularly visit it and learn from it. We got permission from the local parks department and did our pilot of 400m² forest in November 2015.
What were the biggest obstacles in planting this forest?
Shahzad: Our biggest struggle was finding the native tree species. In Pakistan, we have forgotten our native species and replaced them en masse with non-native species. Initially we could only source about 20 species, but slowly and gradually we have gone up to 65 species.
Who did you cooperate with? How did the local community respond to the forest?
Shahzad: For the pilot forest, I invested personally so that we can create a live model for everyone to see. Once it started flourishing, we took over the whole park of 3 acres (12140m²) to convert into a forestland. We redesigned the whole place as a self-sustaining forest park and then invited the community to support us to achieve that vision. By Grace of God it has been extremely well received! Over 40 schools and colleges visit the park regularly to learn how its developing.
Did you encounter any rare species of plants and animals? Or which did you never expect to find in your forest?
Shahzad: We have found 4 very rare species after four years of search, and now they are planted in the forest. Several birds and butterflies have been spotted in the forest which were not seen in the area before. What did you learn from your first forest? Shahzad: We made several mistakes during our first pilot. One major thing we learned is to source everything first and then initiate the project. We have also improved our soil preparation protocols by splitting it into two batches. And we learned to keep at it because nature will respond to your efforts, sooner or later.
What is the next thing you want to learn about forest making?
Shahzad: I have been thinking and researching a lot on creating similar results of Miyawaki Method on a large scale. I hope to learn a lot about it and conduct a trial.