In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, 16 million inhabitants swelter in insufferable conditions. In 2015, when temperatures soared above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, 2000 people died from dehydration and heatstroke.

Devastated by the loss of life, Shahzad Qureshi decided something had to change. “It was just too hot. It was just one of those times where you ask, what the hell is wrong with this place? And one of the things everybody was talking about is that there’s not enough green cover.”

Around that time, Qureshi saw a TED talk that changed his life. In the talk, Shubhendu Sharma shared a method to quickly grow dense urban forests. “The TED talk sounded just so beautiful at the time. I was like ‘I have been shown this light, and if I’m not going to run for it, who will?’” Qureshi decided to learn Sharma’s technique and bring it to Karachi, joining a growing global community of urban foresters who want to help their cities adapt to extreme urban heat events caused by rapid climate change.

Sharma’s special technique is known as the Miyawaki method and involves the close placement of a variety of trees with different growing speeds and light requirements to prevent competition for the same resources. It uses native species, allowing trees to thrive in their original climates while supporting native bird and insect populations – and reducing urban heat island effect.

Over the last four years, Qureshi’s organisation Urban Forest has planted 14 urban forests in parks, schools, private yards and outside of a mosque. Qureshi’s oldest urban forest is four years old and already has towering, 35-foot-tall Acacia trees full of big, thorny branches and birds’ nests. “I have seen bird species in this park which I have not seen in my life. It’s a habitat for them.” And when it comes to cooling, the urban forest is working. In the heat of the day, inside the forests can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas.

Sharma said, “Within two or three years, we see a barren patch of land getting converted into forest. And that’s the kind of motivation we need right now everywhere in the world.”



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Empress Market in Karachi, Pakistan