PESHAWAR - Blessed with bounties of natural resources varying from deserts to Alpine meadows, rivers, plenty of sunshine and rich biodiversity, Khyber Pakthunkhwa is the most suitable province of Pakistan with a colossal potential to enhance forest areas up to 30pc.  The forest area can be enhanced by using the vast barren land of merged tribal districts of erstwhile FATA to counter challenges being posed by global warming and climate change.

In KP, a total of 26.3pc area is currently under forest cover after registering six percent increase during last five years owing to whopping plantation of one billion and 18 crore saplings planted under Billions Trees Afforstration Project (BTAP) and efforts are underway to take it to 30percent during next five years.

This substantial increase in forests cover was recorded after former PTI Govt devised and implemented Green Growth Initiative (GGI) with main focus in six focal sectors including forestry, protected areas and national parks, clean energy, climate resilience, water and sanitation and waste management.  Incepted by Pakistan Forest Institute Peshawar, GGI’s aim is to revisit and improve existing forest policy besides coming up with a viable solution how to combat climate change.

Capitalizing on GGI, the then PTI Government successfully started and implemented BTAP besides devised first-ever provincial climate change policy 2016, range land policy and Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD)+ strategy with main focus on increasing forestry cover through massive plantations.

Based on successful implementation of the above-mentioned initiatives, incumbent KP Govt during its cabinet meeting held on September 5, 2018, had decided to develop KPGGS with a direction to Secretary Environment and Forests KP to develop and submit recommendations for viable KPGGS along with action plan.

Subsequently, a high-level core committee was formed with proposed outlines for KPGGS including institutional legal reforms, development of sustainable infrastructure, promoting green and clean development.

, promoting green life style and green growth while reducing green house gas emissions, controlling pollution, inefficient use of resources and maintaining biodiversity.

The strategy devised for green growth was approved by KP Cabinet on November 8, 2011 with salient features to increase existing forest cover at least by 4pc till 2023 that can be achieved after plantation of additional one billion seedlings under Plant for Pakistan initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In line with GGI, the KP Forest Department has shaped new policy to involve private sector and local communities to plant additional one billion saplings in next five years besides supplementing natural regeneration in 6250 enclosures spreading over 250,000 hectares in under stocked forests through active participation of local community over the project period.

Efforts would be made to bring an additional 107970 hectares area over period of five years besides improving forest quality and  sustainable forest management, restructuring and institutional improvement.The problem of deforestation and degradation would be addressed by involving local communities to take care of new plantations with financial support besides reducing gas emissions through REDD+ viz a viz carrying out livelihood improvement and poverty reduction through promotion of non-timber forest produce (NTFP).

Establishment of Biodiversity Knowledge Parks, promotion of range land management through innovative and modern range management techniques, development of eco-tourism in line with Forest Ordinance 2002 and KP Rules of Business 1985 and adaptive research for development of Climate Smart Forestry.

“BTAP has remained highly successful as under this project 600 million plants were planted through enclosures over an area of 306983 hectares and 200 million through man made plantations in 263213 hectares besides 200 million saplings in 593292 hacteres with help of farm forestry, registering overall all increase of 6.3pc in total forest area of KP,’ Tehmasip Khan, Project Director BTAP told APP.

BTAP was initially planned for five years with a cost of Rs 28000 million and later was redesigned at reduced cost of Rs 22000 million. Under this project, 120pc of the target of one billion seedlings has been achieved at a total cost of Rs12982 million.

“The survival rate of BTAP as reported by WWF is 88pc and more than five lakh individual get jobs” he said.

Tehmasip said BTAP project was globally recognized in the fight against climate change. The BONN challenge commitment of restoring of restoring and rehabilitating degraded forests and  raising new plantations over 3,48,000 hectares, has been surpassed and the BONN Challenge through IUCN has certified this landmark achievement.

He said additional 252000 hectares forests restoration pledge of KP Govt has been official accepted by the BONN challenge in its meeting held in Brazil during March 2018.

“BTAP is the world’s fourth biggest plantation drive in KP, after China, India, and Ethiopia and was also recognized by Asian Protected Area Partnership, World Economic Forum, Conference of Parties (COP-21), WWF and IUCN,” he explained.

Shafqat Munir, Conservator South KP Forest Department said Peshawar has got ‘Changa Manga’ like mega forest at Gari Chandan where 2.5 million saplings were raised on 2500 hectares under BTAP. He said similar forests were also raised in DI Khan where millions of plants were raised on Chashma Road.

Keeping in view of successful completion of BTAP in KP, the Federal Government has launched Plant for Pakistan Program under which 10 billion saplings would be planted in the country including one billion in Khyber Pakthunkhwa during next five years.

Forest Department has chalked out a comprehensive strategy to plant 33.474 million available in departmental and private nurseries that would be planted during ongoing spring plantation campaign in the province including recently merged tribal districts.

The Department has currently 17.490 million fit saplings for plantation and the remaining will be obtained through private sector. For the first time, the KP Forest Department has extended plantation campaign to merged tribal districts of erstwhile Fata where 5.994 million saplings would be planted during ongoing spring season.

As many as 5.717 millions seedlings would be planted with help of masses and general public, 3.209 million through farm forestry, , 0.571 million with help of defense forces and 0.376 million of educational institutions.

Former Ambassador of Pakistan, Manzoorul Haq said massive plantations were imperative to combat challenges posed by climate change, desertification and global warming.

“Climate change has posed serious threats to humans, economy, agriculture, wildlife, biodiversity, environmental and ecological health in developing countries like Pakistan and this challenge can be countered only through whopping plantations and adaptation of safe energy sources,” he maintained.

Manzoor said, “the first and second world wars had brought massive devastation to humans lives and I feared that destructions of climate challenge would be much bigger than these wars in terms of people, livestock ,  infrastructure, agriculture, economy and environmental ecology if this issue was not taken seriously and addressed on war footing basis.”

Climate change causes fluctuation in rainfalls, flooding and speedy melting of glaciers and tacking it was vital to make  world’s worth living,” he said.

He said temperature has increased to alarming level during last years of previous century and this grave situation has forced world to ink Paris Agreement where nations had agreed not to allow increase of average temperature of planet by 2 degree centigrade by supporting each others.

The former ambassador said great responsibilities rest on UN to help the underdeveloped and developing countries in tackling the issue of climate change to save lives of millions of people.