By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, May 03 (APP):Billions Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), a flagship programme of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) government in green sector has been proved an oasis for thousands of jobless labourers and daily wagers to earn better livelihoods for their families during the testing times of COVID-19 lockdown.
Approximately, 66,291 jobless workers were provided green jobs in 10BTAP after they lost employment due to closure of industrial units, public transport, hotels, SMEs, tourism, mines, mineral, construction and other sectors during the nearly two months lockdown in the country.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, around 22,000 green jobs were provided to labourers and daily wagers, 17,391 in Punjab, 3,500 in Balochistan, 11,900 in Sindh, 3,000 in Gilgit Baltistan and 8500 in Azad Kashmir.
Talking to APP, Project Director, Muhammad Tehmasip said, “Following decisions of the Federal and KP Governments to create jobs opportunities for the COVID-19 lockdown affected workforce in green sector, the KP Forest Department has taken a lead role by providing jobs to around 22,000 unemployed workers in its nurseries, forests enclosures and afforestation programs”.
These labourers were given jobs in tube and bare-rooted nurseries, forests enclosures, watering new plantations, mobalization of public for afforestation, spring plantation and protection of jungles programs. Each labourer was being paid Rs15,000 per month and Rs1,50,000 per year, he said.
“We are strictly following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) notified by the Government against COVID-19 to ensure the safety of labourers at workplaces besides provision of masks and maintaining social distancing,” he said.
“Globally, these jobs are called ‘green jobs’ because it reduces pressure on forest and wildlife resources, ensure economic empowerment of communities, combate climate change and keep economy running during emergencies such as COVID-19 lockdown,” Tehmasip said.
“These labourers and daily wagers were hired to quickly achieve spring plantation target of 100 million saplings by June 30, 2020.” Till date, he said 90 million saplings were planted during spring season and remaining 10 million would be sown by June next with assistance of national building departments, farmers, volunteers, students and general public.
“The spring plantation was smoothly underway in KP as no adverse effects of coronavirus has been witnessed on 10BTAP rather afforestation campaign was expedited due to easy availability of labourers,” he maintained.
The Project Director said the first phase of BTAP was launched in 2014 under which over 1.20 billion saplings were planted on 2,30,000 hectares and 4,509 forests enclosures, which registered a record six percent increase in KP’s total forest areas i.e. 26.3 pc in 2018 against 20.3pc in 2013.
Under the project, he said, 10 new small and big jungles were raised in the province including Ghari Chandan Peshawar where more than 3.2 billion plants on 32,000 hactares land were raised to control pollution, temperatures and provide better livelihood to labourers.
“Ghari Chandan forest is bigger than Changa Manga. It has created breeding grounds for native and exotic wild species including falcons, bears, houbara bustard, cranes, common leopard, monkeys, foxes, wolves, jackals, pheasants, black & grey partridges, honeybees and national bird chakor to thrive,” he said.
Keeping in view of the enormous success of first phase of BTAP, Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched 10BTAP in 2018 under which 10 billion saplings would be planted in all four provinces inclouding additional one billion plants in KP by 2023. Under 10BTAP, he said 70 per cent plantation would be carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 30 percent in merged areas (erstwhile Fata) where vast lands were available for afforestation.
Farhatullah Khan, Conservator Merged Areas said plantations and sowing targets set for spring season have almost been achieved in Bajaur district and work on forests enclosures were in progress for natural regeneration of plants in inaccessible and mountainous areas in the seven tribal districts.
He said negotiations with tribal elders were underway for establishment of forest enclosure on 40 hectares in Bajaur where priority in jobs would be given to local labourers and daily wagers in “Greens Nigahbaan” program.
Jawad Mumtaz, DFO Bajaur said 40 labourers were hired for raising of tube-plants nursary at Khar Bajaur where a new forest on 1500 hactare would be raised during upcoming monsoon season to provide jobs to tribal youth besides countering global warming and climate change challenges.
Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment, Forests and Wildlife said that coronavirous pandemic has adversely affected almost all socioeconomic sectors especially daily wagers and labourers for whom special programs were launched in green sector to create jobs opportunities for them.
He said, “Green Stimulus” package has recently been approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan to create jobs opportunities for thousands of labourers and daily wagers affected by COVID-19 lockdown.
Under the package, a ‘Green Nigehabaan’ initiative would be launched to provide employment to around 65,000 youth and daily wage earners in first phase by making them a part of 10BTAP campaign. He said community participation would be ensured for success of these pro- labourers and environment friendly projects besides accomplishment of “Clean and Green Pakistan.”