ISLAMABAD (24 News) – One of Pakistan’s greenest provinces is becoming greener still: In just a year it has added three-quarters of a billion new trees, as part of a “tree tsunami” aimed at reversing worsening forest lost, reported a foreign news agency.
“The success on the ground is phenomenal. This is not just about planting trees but about changing attitudes,” said Rab Nawaz, senior director of programmes for WWF-Pakistan, which has helped audit the tree-planting effort.
The “Billion Tree Tsunami”, which involves adding trees both by planting and natural regeneration, is backed by cricketing legend Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, which governs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in Pakistan’s northwest. It aims to turn around deforestation and increase the province’s forested area by at least 2 percent.
— PTI (@PTIofficial) February 19, 2015
Years of tree felling have reduced Pakistan’s forests to under 2 percent of its land area, one of the lowest levels in the region, according to a 2015 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report. About 40 percent of the country’s remaining forests are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, where Khan’s tree planting effort is expected to hit its billion-tree goal by the end of 2017.
SCALING UP SAPLINGS:
In preparation for the reforestation effort, the provincial government helped set up a network of tree nurseries across the province in 2016, providing loans and purchase agreements for tree saplings. Altogether it has spent 11 billion rupees ($110 million) on the effort, said Malik Amin Aslam, the chairman of the province’s Green Growth Initiative. About 13,000 government and private nurseries, in almost every district of the province, are now producing hundreds of thousands of saplings of local and imported tree varieties, including pines, walnuts and eucalyptus, Aslam told the foreign news agency.
— KPK Updates (@KPKUpdates) March 15, 2017
The nurseries have provided about 40 percent of the new trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; the remaining trees have come from natural regeneration in forests now put under protection, he said. Many small-scale nurseries, producing up to 25,000 saplings, have been set up with cash advances and a guaranteed purchase agreement from the provincial government. Such small nurseries can earn incomes of around 12,000 to 15,000 rupees ($115-$140) a month, a sizeable income for rural villagers, said Aslam.
An estimated 500,000 “green jobs” have been created through the effort, some of which have gone to rural women and unemployed youth, he said. “People have become aware that forests are KP’s precious resource,” he added.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 15, 2017
Aslam said the regeneration effort is being monitored by both the provincial forest department and WWF-Pakistan, working as an auditor. Nawaz, of WWF, said he had just returned from three days looking at 2.5 million new trees in the province. He called the restoration “an amazing achievement” by the government’s forest department and by local communities who are paid to plant trees.
“Whether you support PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party) or not, no one can deny that this is an environmental, economic and social success for other provinces to follow,” he said.