Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has officially kicked off the much-touted Billion Tree Tsunami campaign of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.
While planting saplings in Makhniyal Rest House, Komal Gali and Barkot villages of Haripur district on Saturday, the PTI chief said it is imperative to launch large-scale afforestation programmes in order to protect the ecosystem and rural livelihood.
“The campaign will be a watershed effort in this regard,” he said, reiterating the intention of planting over one billion trees across the highlands and lowlands of K-P.
PTI central leader Jehangir Tareen, MPA Sardar Idrees, former MNA Dr Raja Amir Zaman and officials of the forest department accompanied Khan during the launch.
As part of the Green Growth Initiative, the government aims to plant one billion trees, increase forestlands by 22%, conduct bi-annual plantation drives and double the size of national parks over a period of five years.
Elaborating on the intended objectives of the campaign, Khan said the programme will provide government an umbrella to the tree farming industry, prevent soil erosion and thus conserve natural resources. “We will involve local communities to play an active role in the drive and create over 0.5 million employment opportunities,” he said, adding schoolchildren will be asked to volunteer for the plantation drives. The government has plans to incubate private nurseries throughout the province and will buy the required number of saplings from them at an agreed price.
Khan said the existing and newly-expanded forestlands of the province will be guarded by a new force that will be armed and trained. “Not even a goat will be allowed to graze on protected territory,” he said, adding the provincial government will soon legislate in this regard. Without naming any individuals, Khan said the government will take to task all those involved in organised unwarranted tree felling and timber smuggling.
Only six months into power, the provincial government had parted ways with Qaumi Watan Party, sacking three of its ministers including minister for forests Ibrar Hussain Tanoli over alleged corruption.
“Action will be taken across the board and the forests will be freed from the menace,” promised Khan, adding he will soon call on Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and request him to expedite judicial proceedings in timber smuggling cases so there remains no tunnel for the accused to escape.
The PTI chairman said the party is striving to leave a prosperous province in the hands of future generations and is working on numerous fronts simultaneously. Khan said tenders have already been issued and Rs280 million has already been released for the construction of Pir Sohawa-Komal Gali Road. He said infrastructure schemes are under way in the entire province and mentioned the carpeting and widening of Sangar Gali-Rupar and Pir Sohawa-Makhniyal roads, respectively.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2015.