By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Feb 23 (Diplomatic Star): Like many other developing countries, Pakistan is also confronted with the monster challenge of deforestation and climate change where about 27,000 hectares forests are being vanished per year due to excessive demands for wood, socioeconomic imbalances and weather’s vulnerability.
According to National Forest Policy 2015, Pakistan has only five percent area under forests against 25 percent as per international requirement, which is losing about 27,000 hectares forests per year mostly in community and private owned lands due to climate change susceptibility, encroachment and high population growth.
The policy further revealed that forests in private and community lands in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan are also under tremendous pressures due to climate change and population explosion.
“Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its geographical placement, deforestation and highest population growing at two percent rate annually,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Deputy Project Director, 10 billion trees afforestation project (10BTAP) while talking to Diplomatic Star.
He said the negative effects of climate change and deforestation could be seen during recent snowfall storm in Murree where 22 people had lost battle for lives besides worst drought conditions during 1999-2003, devastation of 2010 floods, formation of glacial lakes in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan and cyclones on coasts of Karachi and Gwadar in 2008.
While talking cognizance of deforestation and climate change vulnerabilities, he said the previous PTI Government had devised a Green Growth Initiative (GGI) with main focus on forestry, protected areas, national parks, clean energy, climate resilience, sanitation and water management. Subsequently, he said Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP) was launched in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in November 2014 under which a record of 1.208 billion saplings were raised with an estimated cost of Rs14.363 billion against the approved cost of Rs19.44 billion, thus Rs5.077 billion was saved for the Government kitty.
Terming BTAP as the world’s 4th biggest plantation project successfully implemented by Pakistan after China, India and Ethiopia, he said the project has increased KP’s forest covered area to 26.6 percent in 2018 against 20 percent in 2013, thus surpassing the 25 percent international forests standard for a country. “The SUPARCO has also reported 85 percent positive change detection in forest cover area of KP and 88 percent survival rate of BTAP plantations by WWF,” he added.
Following the success of BTAP, the Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched 10 BTAP on September 2, 2018 to plant 10 billion trees in the country including additional one billion seedlings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by 2023. “Work on 10BTAP is successfully underway in the province where 505 million saplings were planted through farm forestry, enclosures and general public till January 31, 2022,” said Ibrahim Khan.
He said 270 million plants were raised through man-made plantations, 30 million through sowing and dibbling while over 200 million through general public and farmers. The target of additional one billion saplings would be achieved through natural regeneration in 6,259 enclosures including 2,000 in merged areas spreading over an area of 250,000 hactares and raising of new plantation on 111, 314 hectares besides establishment of Biodiversity Knowledge Parks and others forests initiatives.
“KP’s share in 10 BTAP is Rs27 billion for which Rs13.5 billion each would be provided by the Federal and KP Governments,” he said and rejected the impression of delay of funding for the project. Spring plantation has been started across province including seven merged tribal districts where 104.882 million saplings would be planted with assistance of stakeholders under conventional plantation.
As many as 13.026 million seedlings would be sown in southern circle comprising Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swabi, Kohat, Bannu, D I Khan, Karak, Hangu and 22.246 million in merged tribal districts, 42.315 million in northern forest region-11 Abbottabad of Hazara division and 26.843 million in Malakand division.
Out of these plants, 63.023 million would be planted through departmental plantation, 1.177 million through mass planting viz a viz urban and peri-urban plantation, 29.071 million through farm forestry, 1.744 million through village development committees, 5.552 million by defense forces, 2.652 million by educational institutions besides 4.635 million on 8811 acres through sowing and doubling.
‘Fruits, ornamental and bees flora plants has been made part of 10BTAP for the first time and over 199.900 million seedlings including 2.8 million fruits plants and three million ornamental plants would be distributed free among general public, organisations, farmers and 24 million in civil society.” To promote apiculture, he said about one million saplings of berry would be distributed and sown mostly in southern districts of KP.
Recognized by BONN Challenge, Conference of Parties (Cop-21), World Economic Forum, WWF and IUCN, he said the project has greatly helped in raising of 10 new jungles including Ghari Chandan Azakhel Mathani Peshawar on 3,000 hectares with 3.2 million plants which is bigger than Changa Manga.
Similarly, 2.840 million green jobs were provided to people and labourers including to 2,933 women during the project.
Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment and Forests said that Plant for Pakistan Day was celebrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where more than 332 plantation events were inaugurated by Federal and Provincial Ministers, members of the parliament, assemblies, officials of Government departments and districts administration would be organized to mobilize people.
According to Forest Department officials, a total of 173 million saplings would be planted in Khyber Pakhtunkwa over an area of 95,984 hectares including 70 million in enclosures under Plant for Pakistan. A target of 540 million plants is set at national level which will be achieved through participation of 750,000 workers under Plant for Pakistan. Likewise, over three billion trees would be planted in 2023.
Ibrahim Khan said a high-level delegation from Germany led by Jochen Flashbarth, State Secretary German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development has recently visited Ghari Chandan forest Peshawar and planted trees there. “The German delegation visit to Ghari Chandan has signified Pakistan’s positive role in the global fight against climate change,” he added.
Ibrahim Khan said Billion Trees Afforstration Support Project (BTASP) was being launch in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with assistance of Germany for sustainable management and protection of forest resources based on effective management information database system and developing participatory forest development plan for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
To this effect, a grant agreement worth 13.5 million Euros has been signed with the German Development Bank (KfW) under Pakistan-German Climate and Energy Initiative. BTASP is a six years project under which forest conservation and protection committees would be established initially in 100 villages in KP besides others initiatives to protect the green gold.
He said the German Government has showed commitment to provide additional €20 million for Phase II of the mega project activities in KP Ibrahim Khan said during BTAP activities, 13 persons affiliated with Forest Department including one forester and three forest guards had embraced shahadat and six others injured in line of duty.