PESHAWAR: The depleting forest resources due to rapid population expansion and more reliance on fossil fuels have increased the emission of greenhouse gases while affecting the natural environment, bio-diversity, wildlife and aquatic resources.
Though the bounties of natural resources vary from deserts to alpine meadows, rivers, winds, plenty of sunshine and rich biological diversity but the country has enormous potential to expand its forest cover. According to National Forest Policy (2015), Pakistan is losing about 27,000 hectares of forest every year, which mainly occurs in private and community-owned natural forest, especially in Gilgit Baltistan and KP where the green gold was under enormous pressure due to rapid population growth, increased demands for woods, land encroachment and desertification.
The population bulge has exerted extra pressure on forest resources both at national and provincial level; resultantly the actual demand of wood is three times higher than annual increment of forests. Therefore, in order to counter deforestation, environmental pollution and climate change, the previous PTI Government in KP had devised and implemented Green Growth Initiative (GGI) focusing on six sectors including forestry, protected areas and national parks, clean energy, climate resilience, water and sanitation and waste management.
After the enormous success of first phase of BTAP, Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched 10-BTAP on September 2, 2018 in the entire country under which additional one billion saplings would be planted during 2018-23 in KP. Focus is being given to Peri-Urban plantations under which 1.720 million saplings each would be planted in southern circle and merged areas, 3.280 million each in Hazara and Malakand regions during spring campaign. Plantations on roadsides of Swat Motorway, Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway, Indus Highways, farms and watershed areas, schools, GT road, parks, universities, canals and agriculture farms would be carried out.
Talking to reporter, Project Director, 10 Billion Trees Afforstration Project (10BTAP) Raees Khan said that spring plantation campaign has been started across the province in line with PGGS approved by Provincial Cabinet on November 8, 2018. Under PGGS, he said forest cover in KP would be taken to 30 percent till 2023 from existing 26.3 percent by planting additional one billion saplings under 10BTAP. He said, “Our focus is on merged areas (erstwhile Fata) where its vast lands would be utilized during spring plantations through enclosures and man-made afforestration in order to achieve the set target of plantation of additional one billion trees by 2023.”
Syed Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister for Environment, Forest and Wildlife while talking to the agency has said that plantation of indigenous trees like beer, palosa and kikar was focused to promote apiculture and honey business, adding 5.24 million plants of beer would be distributed for plantation during current year. He said forest department in coordination with agriculture department would work on planting of olive plants and a project has been started to promote Chalgoza in Chitral and South Waziristan. During current year, he said 50,000 plants of Chalgoza would be raised in forest nurseries while 20 enclosures identified for its regeneration. Tree plantation was an easiest way to offset the challenges of climate change and environmental pollution and if every person plant at least five plants in a year and properly look after it than millions of saplings would be planted in the country, he added.
Raees Khan said that local communities were being engaged to supplement natural regeneration in 6,250 forest enclosures stretched over an area of 250,000 hectares in under-stock forest. He said the saplings would be sown at 107,970 hectares lands during the project besides establishment of biodiversity knowledge parks, livelihood improvement and poverty reduction through promotion of beekeeping, honey, medical plants and other non timber forest products.
The Project Director said the new plantation sites in almost all districts including THE merged areas were identified and about 300 million saplings were planted during last two years under 10 BTAP in KP. Under the 10-BTAP, he said as many as 6,250 enclosures would be established besides raising new plantations on 111,314 hectares, range management plantation on 5000 hectares, sowing and dibbling on 25,600 hectares, 1000 harvesting schemes, establishment of departmental tube nurseries on 234.489 hectares and bare-rooted nurseries on 1813.5 hectares while providing 199,900,000 forest plants, 2,800,000 fruit plants, 3,000,000 ornamental plants to communities free of cost.