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Critical Evaluation of Billion Tree Project Launched by KPK Government

By Muhammad Atif Khan

Imran Khan led PTI Govt in KPK launched the green mission north-west of the country in 2014. The Project named “Billion Tree Tsunami” involves adding trees both by planting and regeneration in the province which consists about 40 percent of the country’s forests area.

 

Pakistan is among the top 10 countries affected most by global warming. Pakistan connects Middle East and South Asia and due to its geographical location, the average temperature is expected to rise faster than anywhere else in the world, increasing 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 according to World wildlife fund report. In June 2015, more than 1200 people died from the heat wave and 65000 were treated for heat illnesses, the provincial management authority for Karachi reported. Depleting water supplies are also a big problem for Pakistan as 60 % of land in Pakistan receives less than 10 inches of rain per year. Rivers in Pakistan are mainly fed by Glaciers which are melting rapidly. All these happenings are just because of Global Warming.  Therefore It has became the need of hour to go for such projects like Billion Tsunami Campaign in order to combat the Global Warming and its effects on Pakistan.

 

The project aimed at improving the ecosystems of  forests, as well as privately owned waste and farm lands, and therefore emphasizes working in close collaboration with concerned communities and stakeholders to ensure their meaningful participation through effectuating project promotion and extension services.

 

The KPK Government set up a network of 13000 Government and Private tree nurseries across the province in 2016. It provided loans and purchase agreements for tree saplings. Altogether it has spent 11 billion rupees ($110 million) on the effort, according to Malik Amin Aslam, the chairman of the province’s Green Growth Initiative. Pleasingly, all these efforts in the province have surpassed an international commitment after it restored 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land.

 

The Billion Tree Tsunami was completed in November 2017 and One of the best things about this project was that due to this project, an estimated 500,000 “green jobs” had been created , some of which have gone to rural women and unemployed youth of that particular areas.

 

Billion Tree Tsunami has been the most successful project but there are other aspect of the story as well which includes corruption. NAB started inquiry in March 2018 and In January 2020 NAB announced that it had detected a loss of 462 million rupees (approximately $3 million USD) in connection with an inquiry it had launched in March 2018. Allegations included ghost labour, embezzlement, and misappropriation of power and public Funds.

This project has a great contribution in restoration of forests as 2% of the deforested land area will be recovered. After 40 years the newly planted trees will contribute in controlling local pollution and global warming.  As climate change is a big threat to the future so the project has been recognized by Bonn challenge the target of which is to grow 150 million hectares of the world degraded and deforested land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. The BTTAP contributed to the Bonn challenge with a pledge of 348400 hectares.

 

“IUCN congratulates the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on reaching this momentous milestone. The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative is a true conservation success story, one that further demonstrates Pakistan’s leadership role in the international restoration effort and continued commitment to the Bonn Challenge,” says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN.

 

The planted trees are reinforcing riparian banks in important catchment areas, including along the banks of the Indus, Kunhar and Swat rivers. The project has also added tree resources to agricultural lands currently engaged in farm forestry, enhanced biodiversity by restoring wildlife shelters, and will contribute to CO₂ sequestration through new tree plantations. 

 

Indeed there is no doubt that KPK Government was very sincere about the project as it was the plan of Their chairman Imran Khan But they were not expecting that corruption and misappropriation of funds were happening under their nose.

 

The BTTP has gained international attraction as it was amount the sustainable development goals to impove living and fight the challenges posed by Global Warming.

 

As we know the legal means are mandatory for the sustainable growth, restoration and protection of forests which changes from country to country. There is no concrete federal forest law in Pakistan and it had been exercising 1927 act of British India and then the 1992 act after independence. However, the BTTP was launched under the guidelines of KP forest ordinance 2002. The Forest ordinance 2002 passed by the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elaborates the demarcation of reserved and protected forests, management of forest department and rights of people. Although the ordinance protects forests but still it has some flaws which need to be addressed. Secondly the ordinance is rigid regarding the ownership of forests. 40 % percent of the total forests of the country are in the KP province and people were enjoying the ownership for many decades. All efforts for sustainable protection of forests seems to be useless without the involvement of the local community. as most of the people use forests as their only source of income, the Government is supposed to give alternatives to the local community.

 

Writer of this report is the student of Institute of Communication Studies, Punjab University , Lahore.

 

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