Billion tree plantation’s next phase
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government has asked for funds from the federal government to complete the second phase of billion tee plantation program. The total outlay for this phase of plantation has been estimated to be Rs. 27 billion. Half of the required funding shall be provided by the federal government as a part of “Green Pakistan” initiative of the prime Minister which envisage plantation of 10 billion saplings across the country.
The first phase of the programme was successfully implemented by the previous PTI provincial government by restoring 350,000 hectares of forests and bringing more areas under plantations which raised the total area under forests from 2.5 percent 6.3 percent whereas it needs to be expanded to 25 percent. But at the same time the timber mafia is still active in collusion with Forest Department officials and there is no decline in deforestation rate. The issue was agitated on social media by the tourists and in retaliation the timber mafia recently managed to ignite forest fires in mountainous areas where 210,000 plants of new plantation was destroyed. Last year, the people of Swat did sit in near the office of District Forest Officer and demanded action against both the forest officials and the influential people who are responsible for undoing the Prime Minister’s initiative of Green Pakistan. But unfortunately, the protest of the people and recent mysterious incidents of forests’ fires have not been seriously taken by the present PTI government in the province except hush up exercises of setting up inquiry committees the reports of which are never made public. No authentic national data is available about the total area under forests. The surveys conducted in 2004 and 2011 estimated it 5.7 and 5.1 percent respectively. These estimates widely differs from the data compiled by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation which reveals that total area under forests in Pakistan is 2.2 percent. It is really a matter of great concern as Pakistan has been ranked 7th most vulnerable country to the disastrous impact of climate change by German watch in its index for 2018. It must serve as guide for the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government to reign in the let loose timber mafia to achieve the desired results from the next phase of billion tree plantation.