PESHAWAR   -  Garhi Chandan, a deserted and barren area on the outskirts of Peshawar towards south, now presents a good example of a success story of converting an arid land into a man-made forest through plantation of 3.2 million plants which mostly converted into trees, changing the landscape of the area making it serene and eye catching for visitors.

The Forest Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa planted around 3.2 million plants in Garhi Chandan at an area of 32,000 hectares (60,000 kanals) during its flagship programme, Billion Tree Tsunami Aforestation Project (BTTAP).

BTTAP was launched in 2014 by government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as an emergency response to global warming caused by climatic changes.

A visit to the area revealed how plantation at an arid and barren area converted it into lush green forest within few years.

The plantation has not only developed a forest in the area, but also established a sanctuary for different wild species including chakor, partridges, humming birds, wild boar, jackal etc which usually were not found in this plateau due to lack of greenery and water, but started appearing now.

“It was a difficult decision to select Garhi Chandan as site for development of forest through massive plantation because the soil is very less nutrient and is fully embedded with rocks and stones,” said Muhammad Tehmasib, Project Direct BTTAP.

But we decided to utilise this waste land which was lying empty and useless even for agriculture purpose due to lack of water, Tehmashib told APP.

“The soil was so hard and full of stones that digging of pitches for plants became very hard for labourers,” he said.

Similarly, he continued, arranging water was also a difficult task for which tankers were arranged and water was supplied from Chamkani.

Due to hard work by Forest Department and locals of the area who were given job during plantation and for supplying water to saplings, the survival rate is around 98 per cent and now the growing trees have gained the height of around 12 feet within a period of four years.

About the plant species which are planted at Charhi Chandan forest, he said that about 35 per cent are Eucalyptus, 40 per cent Palosa (Aesias Modesta), 20  per cent Sheesham and remaining are Bair (jojoba), Kanair (Mexican Oleander), Kiker (Arabic Gum trees). 

Garhai Chandan is part of 5400 sites where block plantation has been made under BTTPP, but this site is the largest in its size, Tehmasib apprised APP.

“The man-made forest at Garhi Chandan will not only help in containing environmental pollution and combating climate change, but will also benefit local community economically,” says Aurangzeb Khan, Sub-Divisional Forest Officer (SDFO) Peshawar.

Talking to APP, Aurangzeb said that as a royalty of local community some of the fast growing trees will be marked which can be cut and sold to wood industry. The earning will be distributed among community while the cut trees will re-generate naturally, he said.

Similarly, under REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), a UN initiative to work together in order to aid the developing countries in their bid to counter and diminish climate change, community will be paid by international community for carbon sequestration through development of forest in their area.

Within few years, the communities will benefit from international funding under carbon credit programme of REDD+, he stated.

Similarly, the project also benefited local community through creation of hundreds of jobs in initial stage and still around 20 to 25 local persons are serving as watch guards of the forest. 

“From June 2020 process over preparation of Project Design Data will start after which calculation will be made for payment on carbon credit,” says Muhammad Arif, Incharge REDD+ Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Arif said that Pakistan is signatory to REDD+ initiative and will benefit from its funding as payment for carbon sequestration.

“Gahari Chandan Forest is also serving as a tourist spot as a lot of people now visit the area for enjoying its serenity,” says Wali Dad, a resident of Garhi Chandan and serving as Watch Man at the forest.

Talking to APP, Wali Dad said that a number of tourists are visiting the area which is also serving as Eco-Tourism site after development of man-made forest.

Wali Dad said that local people are very much thankful to Forest Department of KP for development of forest in their locality mostly comprising of barren land.

“The whole landscape of Ghari Chandan has been changed after development of the forest which looks like an oasis amidst a vast area of arid and deserted terrain,” Wali Dad said.