'Billion tree tsunami' surges across K-P

Published: March 16, 2017
Imran Khan’s tree planting effort is expected to hit its billion-tree goal by the end of 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER via @imrankhanPTI

Imran Khan’s tree planting effort is expected to hit its billion-tree goal by the end of 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER via @imrankhanPTI

ISLAMABAD: 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 loss.

“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.

Billion Tree Tsunami Over 3 million saplings planted in Gallies

The “Billion Tree Tsunami”, which involves adding trees both by planting and natural regeneration, is backed by cricketing legend Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which governs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It aims to turn around deforestation and increase the province’s forested area by at least 2 per cent.

Years of tree felling have reduced Pakistan’s forests to under 2 per cent of its land area, one of the lowest levels in the region, according to a 2015 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report.

About 40 per cent of the country’s remaining forests are in K-P, 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 Rs11 billion 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 Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The nurseries have provided about 40 per cent of the new trees in K-P; 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 Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 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 K-P’s precious resource,” he added.

Aslam said the regeneration effort is being monitored by both the provincial forest department and WWF-Pakistan, working as an auditor.

Billion tree tsunami: Women nurture trees and pride in forest drive

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 or not, no one can deny that this is an environmental, economic and social success for other provinces to follow,” he said.

Better tech – and enforcement

The project is being monitored using modern technology. Last week Khan launched the project’s website, which includes GPS coordinates of all the plantations and a live tree counter.

“This is a project for the future of Pakistan and something I keep very close to my heart. It is not only helping K-P by providing a green, breathable environment and green jobs but is also building up Pakistan’s much needed defense against the high climate vulnerability that it faces,” the cricketer-turned-politician told the Thomas Reuters Foundation. As well, “it significantly contributes to the global efforts for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change”, Khan said.

To protect its forests, Khan’s provincial government has also enforced a complete ban on the cutting and felling of trees in reserved forests.

The government says the activities of the powerful “timber mafia” have been curtailed through dismantling more than 600 illegal sawmills and arresting more than 300 timber cutters, as well as issuing heavy fines.

“Two of our forest guards have been killed in timber encounters while many have braved injuries,” Aslam said. “All of these steps have forced the timber mafia on to the back foot and delivered a clear political message of ‘zero tolerance’ to the illicit cutting of wood.”

Effort goes nationwide

The project has been recognised by the Bonn Challenge, a global partnership aiming to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020.

The K-P government – the only province to register under the Bonn Challenge, Pakistani officials said – has committed to restore 380,000 hectares of forests and has already achieved nearly 80 per cent of that goal, Aslam said.

The Bonn challenge website estimates an economic benefit of the reforestation effort at $121 million for the province, in terms of carbon sequestration, better watershed improvement and future sustainable wood supplies.

Greener Punjab: Govt to plant maximum trees province-wide

The project has proven so popular that the federal government of Pakistan, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s opposing Pakistan Muslim League (N) party, has now begun implementing its own “Green Pakistan Programme”.

The aim of the programme is to plant 100 million trees all over the country over the next five years.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • ali
    Mar 16, 2017 - 1:45PM

    Great effort. Keep it up.Recommend

  • Raza
    Mar 16, 2017 - 6:04PM

    Very good initiative!Recommend

  • israr
    Mar 16, 2017 - 8:05PM

    MashaAllah, Police , Education, Health , Environment, Tourism, Billion tree Tsunami, Jobs related to education, police, health, green jobs and tourism jobs just massive impact …
    look at the though process and vision of IK and PTI so Malik Ameen Aslam is the architect of this billion tree tsunami and how well he has done he also has registered with Bonn challenge great and the forestry ministery has done great as well, cm support is there so look at this IK has a place that everyone respects and everyone wants to be part of new KPK.

    If police was not strong you cannot implement laws so laws are only passed once durrani proved he can change police and keep it un-biased with IK and CM making sure no interference of kp govt in police, then parallel atif khan kept his pace on education reforms and introduced biometric attendance system, in health though was tougher than expected however sharam with support from pti central and provincial he kept his game up and up and managed to get the law passed and hospitals are now autonomous along with doctors are in full attendance.
    tourism we saw changes, first time ever the rest houses were commercialized so instead of being a burden they started generating revenue, the money saved and earned went towards renovation and creating better facilities in galdiyaat and malam jabba… look i can go on and on about it… I JUST LOOOV THE CHANGE MASHAALLAH Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Mar 16, 2017 - 8:39PM

    I don’t like Imran Khan for many things. But, I love and admire him for his billion tree initiative. This is a great initiative and will bring lots of good for decades and centuries to come. Recommend

  • Ali S
    Mar 16, 2017 - 9:42PM

    PTI is the only party which has climate change – a globally critical issue – anywhere on its agenda and actively working on it (the rest are still fixated on the antiquated definition of success = more construction).

    I’m not a fan of Imran Khan’s antics or vocal outbursts (which, quite frankly, can border on idiotic), but he’s changing thought processes in this country and redefining what success means – KPK has seen unprecedented attention and efforts given towards reforming police, education, healthcare and environment. PTI has my next vote too.Recommend

  • irfan
    Mar 16, 2017 - 10:32PM

    Great work by IK for future generationsRecommend

  • Manzoor Khan
    Mar 17, 2017 - 12:00AM

    Though i am not IK supporter and these day i am fed up from politics but its quite simple that some people think about future generation and that is real leader i think IK is trying to do his best in KP i mean look at the phenominal succes in the field of police health education ,enivironment and now they are working in mega projects like swat express way peshawar mass transit and circular bullet train in 5 district !! I think this is more then enough work in 4 years of duration .Recommend

  • flipflop
    Mar 17, 2017 - 4:59AM

    I think this is wonderful and I hope that this plan is successful. Illegal logging and deforestation should not be allowed and must be punishable. I hope the trees that are being planted are native to the area as it would support local biodiversity of the species and the environment. Pakistan should consider looking into hydro phonic farms as they require less amount of land and water consumption and the output is significantly higher as well and there is no dependence on pesticides or other harmful sprays Recommend

  • sarief tippu
    Mar 17, 2017 - 6:55AM

    Only stupids plant eucalyptus.Its fit for deserts only. India and Bangladesh are removing all eucalyptus trees from 2 decades Recommend

  • nadeem ansari
    Mar 17, 2017 - 7:38AM

    I am an Indian. I bow in admiration . If Pakistanis can do this , I accept they are heroes. Then lend Imran Khan to us for five years.Recommend

  • ayesha khan
    Mar 17, 2017 - 10:09AM

    May Allah bless you with a long and healthy like IK. You are our only hope after Allah.Recommend

  • Anjum
    Mar 17, 2017 - 10:19AM

    Excellent job by IK for the upcoming generations of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Karachiwala
    Mar 17, 2017 - 10:24AM

    I disagree with IK on many things, but if one thing’s for sure is that he has vision.
    “The Bonn challenge website estimates an economic benefit of the reforestation effort at $121 million for the province, in terms of carbon sequestration, better watershed improvement and future sustainable wood supplies.”
    This just fills my heart with joy. Won’t support them at federal level, but I sincerely hope PTI gets another 5 years in KP.Recommend

  • Mamu
    Mar 21, 2017 - 1:13PM

    @Manzoor Khan:
    If you are impressed by his work then my friend support him. Go out and vote for him. There will be some problems in the beginning but as time will pass you will realise that he was the best choice.Recommend

  • azmat
    Mar 22, 2017 - 3:27PM

    @nadeem ansari:
    Not even for a mountain of gold mate :)Recommend

  • Paki
    Mar 22, 2017 - 5:37PM

    If you agree that he has vision then why don’t you support him? If we dont support him then you and I will be the biggest losers, not IK. So many allegations were put on IK from Taliban Khan to Yahood Agent. And then his flat that he purchased. He was clean that is why no filed a case against him. Trust him one last time and vote for him in Karachi. Recommend

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