PESHAWAR - Around four million students across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are all set to back the provincial government in its endeavours to combat climate change challenges with a target to plant 45 million saplings in one-day on February 20.

It is for the first time in history of the country that such a large num­ber of students from KG to PhD lev­el would participate in spring affor­estation campaign in a bid to achieve the target of additional one billion saplings under 10 Billion Trees Af­forestation Program (BTAP) in KP by 2023.

Following successful implemen­tation of first phase of BTAP-2014-17 under which more than 1.20 bil­lion saplings were planted over an areas of 230,000 hectares and 4,509 enclosures, registering six per cent increase in KP’s total forest areas ie 26.3pc in 2018 against 20.3pc in 2013, the government has decided to launch 10-BTAP in all four prov­inces with major share to KP of ad­ditional one billion plantation in next four years.

The national afforestation pro­grams would be successful only when people of all walks of life, in­cluding local communities were fi­nancially empowered like wildlife trophy hunting programs and giv­ing them a sense of ownership to properly look after the plantations and mother trees for regeneration of natural forests resources and its socio-economic impact on their lives.

Talking to journalists, Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa Minister for Environment, Forests and Wildlife Syed Istiaq Ur­mar said: “Global warming and cli­mate change loom large and posing serious threats to developing coun­tries like Pakistan in terms of food in­security, environmental degradation, health, renewable energy and water resources, we have decided to plant 45 million saplings in spring season by engaging four million students of schools, colleges and universities in­cluding those from merged areas on February 20”.

He said the PTI government was vigorously pursuing PM’s Plant for Pakistan Programme keeping in view the climate change threats and planned this key initiative to be tak­en under an inclusive MoUs signed among the elementary and second­ary, higher education and forest de­partments to achieve the targets set by Ministry of Climate Change, Islam­abad.

The minister said students of gov­ernment and private educational in­stitutions from Chitral to D.I Khan and South Waziristan to Kohistan would participate in the special affor­estation drive.

He said if every student planted at least 10 saplings then 40 million sap­lings would easily be planted during spring.

Muhammad Tehmasip Khan, the Project Director said participation of such a large number of students would immensely help achieve plan­tation target of 80 million seedlings in spring season in KP, including erst­while FATA against 100 million target set for this year.

The Project Director said 10BTAP has been extended to newly-merged areas where its vast land would be utilised to achieve the set targets. He said farmers; village developmental committees (VDCs), general public, officials of national building depart­ments, defence forces, civil society and NGOs would also be involved during spring plantations in erst­while FATA.

Tehmasip said lands for 10-BTAP had been identified in merged ar­eas and more suitable afforestation sites were being searched in Bajaur, Khyber, South Waziristan, North Wa­ziristan, Orakzai, Mohmand and Kur­ram tribal districts.

He maintained the selection of spe­cies for 10-BTAP had been completed and would be utilised keeping in view climate and soil conditions of the ar­eas. Under range land policy, around 1375 hectares and 10 watershed ar­eas would be treated.

VDCs, mostly comprises of local tribesmen would be involved to help Forest Department in protection of new afforestation in merged areas for at least five years. Under farms for­estry scheme, free ornamental and fruits plants would also be distribut­ed among people, who provide lands for the national afforestation cam­paign.

He said: “Forests laws were ex­tended to merged areas under which forest check-posts were es­tablished with assistance of district administration on important com­munication points connecting ex-Fa­ta, KP and Afghanistan to curb illicit transportation of timber and wood resources.”

The Ministry of Climate Change was extending full support to KP For­est Department in execution Plant for Pakistan, he added.