Features 10 Billion Trees: A crucial project to avert threats...

10 Billion Trees: A crucial project to avert threats of climate change, desertification

10 Billion Trees: A crucial project to avert threats of climate change, desertification

Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Jun 04 (APP):Highly susceptible to climate change due to its geographical placement, Pakistan is facing looming threats of water scarcity and food security due to loosing of about 27,000 hectares of forests mostly in community and private lands per year due to rapid population growth, drought and desertification.

The climate change’s adverse effects in the country could be witnessed from floods of 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 besides worst drought during 1999-2003, two cyclones in Karachi and Gwadar Coast in 2008 and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GOLFs) including Atabad Lake in Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral.

According to National Forest Policy 2015, Pakistan is losing about 27,000 hectares forest every year mainly in private and community owned forests especially in Gilgit Baltistan and KP where the green gold was under tremendous pressure due to rapid population growth, climate change and increased demand for wood for domestic consumption.

“Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change and is number has been slashed down to sixth from seven in terms of climate change’s vulnerability, which is matter of great concerns,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Senior Planning and Monitoring Officer, 10 Billion Trees Afforestration Project (10BTAP) while talking with APP.

Taking cognizance of the looming threats of climate change and desertification, Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended BTAP to entire country on September 2, 2018 after massive plantation of 1.208 billion plants achieved during 2014-17 in KP.

“KP is going to emerge as a land of forests and olive trees where over 362 million saplings planted under 10BTAP till March 15 last and is all set to achieve half of set target ie 500 million against one billion target by June this year,” he said.

Similarly, 180 million plants were generated through forest enclosures, 270 million manmade plantations and 25 million being sown through seed sowing, 200 million including fruits and ornamental plants under farm forestry.

Plantation of olive trees and fruits plants is made part of 10BTAP for the first time this year after inauguration by Prime Minister at Azakhel Nowshera on March 15 last in KP where about four million olive plants would be sown through orchards and grafting in another 40 million healthy wild olives would be made under a joint venture project with Agriculture Department.

About 7,000 forests enclosures including 3,000 in merged areas, 2,000 each in Malakand and Hazara divisions were established to achieve one billion plants’ target out of which 500 million would be sown through enclosures and 500 million through manmade plantations.

Gulzar-ur-Rehman, Conservator Forest Department said PC-I has been approved to covert the country’s first manmade Ghari Chandan and Mathani Azakhel forests near Peshawar as ecotourism resorts. These new forests bigger than ‘Changa Manga’ have controlled air pollution in Peshawar besides a key source of medicinal plants and served as wildlife habitats, he added.

“We achieved 95pc target set for southern circle comprising Peshawar, DI Khan, Nowshera, Kohat, Bannu, Charsadda and Lakki Marwat and remaining five pc would be completed by June 30, 2021.”

In last two years, he said 32.43 million saplings were planted in southern circle including 15.39 million in 2019-20 and 17.04 million in 2020-21, adding honey, furniture and others non-timber-forest produce achieved upward growth in last seven years in KP.

“Most of KP’s beekeepers had visited Azad Kashmir and Punjab in the past due to lack of bees-flora plants here but now it is available in abundance in KP, thus saving their hard earned time and money.”

Under 10 BTAP, new plantations on 111,314 hectares would be raised and range management plantation on 5000 hectares besides sowing and dibbling on 25,600 hectares.

Likewise, 1,000 water harvesting schemes, establishment of departmental tube nurseries on 234.489 hectares and bare-rooted nurseries on 1813.5 hectares to be achieved besides free distribution of 199,900,000 forest plants, 2,800,000 fruit plants and 3,000,000 ornamental plants to communities.

Besides sowing of 5.24 million beer plants in current year, he said a project has been launched to promote Chalgoza in Chitral and South Waziristan besides 50,000 plants of Chalgoza to be raised in forest nurseries and 20 forest enclosures.

Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment, Forests and Wildlife told APP that Pakistan has been selected for hosting of World Economic Day this year on June 5 at Islamabad, which was a great honour for the nation besides an endorsement of the PTI Government’s strong commitment in fight against climate change through its ambitious BTAP.

“We are going to another offshoot i.e. ‘Green, Sweet and Fruits for All’ under which olive and indigenous bees flora plants including berry and palosa are being planted. About 70 million wild olives plants discovered in KP including merged tribal districts out of which grafting in 40 million would be made through agriculture experts,” the Minister said.

“Green jobs to 99,1546 daily wagers and labourers were provided during COVID-19 pandemic including 493,432 in 20019-20 and 498,114 in 2020-21,” Ibrahim Khan said, adding about 2,838 jobs were of Negehbans (caretakers), 5250 of Chowkidars (Guards), 184908 jobs for daily wagers and 227 for skilled individuals.

He said Rs 500 were paid to wagers on daily basis and Rs 15000 to Chowkidars and Neghebans on monthly basis.

Ibrahim Khan said 10 BTAP would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs27 billion under which Rs13.5 billion each would be provided by Federal and KP Governments under PSDP and ADP respectively.

First phase of BTAP has been completed with an estimated cost of Rs12,982 million against an approved allocation of Rs 22,000 million and thus a huge amount of Rs10,019 million was saved for the national kitty, he said.

He said 593,292 hectare land was treated and 4,509 enclosures on 306,983 hectares established under the project and additional one million hectares would be rehabilitated and improved across the country by 2023.

Resultantly, KP forest covered area increased to 26.6pc having an addition of 6.3pc in 2017-18 against 20 pc recorded in 2013 and efforts is on to enhance it up to 30 pc by 2023 doable after utalization of nonproductive lands of merged areas.

Astham Khan, Owner of Gulsan Nursery, Tarnab Peshawar said 10BTAP has made a positive impact on horticulture and floriculture business besides providing job opportunities to thousands of nursery men and women at homes.

“We are raising plants and flowers in homes and nurseries after receiving contracts from the forest department and handing over the same to forest officers for plantation, resulting a substantial increase in green cover and our revenue.”

However, he said, COVID-19 has made a negative impact on horticulture and floriculture in Peshawar as the number of customers has recently reduced and urged the Government and National Highway Authority to slash the lease amount and support people associated with this hard earned business.

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