RAWALPINDI - Boosted efforts are being put into launch mass-scale Olive Tree Tsunami programme in the country’s regions hit by recurring water shortages, droughts and plunging groundwater levels, said Adviser to Prime Minister on Environment Malik Amin Aslam here on Sunday.

Directives have been already issued to climate change Ministry’s forestry officials for rolling out an over-arching and viable national plan of cultivating 50 million olive trees as a part of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme in consultation with all provincial and federal stakeholders on urgent basis, which will target particularly smallholder farmers in the country’s drought-hit areas in Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he told media after undertaking visits of olive growing areas in Chakwal district.

Amin highlighted that the olive tree plantation at such a huge scale would be boosted with construction of the rainwater harvesting storage ponds in drought-hit areas and use of efficient irrigation technologies and practices.

The Prime Minister’s Adviser said that rain-dependent regions including Potohar region across the country can be turned into a food baskets by promoting large-scale olive tree plantation, where agriculture sector is struggling with frequent drought conditions, falling rainfalls and irrigation water shortages.

“Since olive is a drought-tolerant staple plant, efforts would be taken to increase olive farming area in the Potohar region’s Chakwal, Attock, Jehlum and Rawalpindi districts as well as various others water-stressed districts of Balochistan and Khybr-Pakhtunkhwa, which suffer frequent drought conditions because of declining rainfalls,” he said. Spelling out various characteristics of the olive tree, the Climate Change Ministry Joint Secretary and Acting Inspector General of Forest, Suleman Warraich, said that the olive tree is known worldwide as really a great plant that withstand various negative effects of climate change.

“Olive farming, however, can be easily carried out in the country’s areas that witness frequent droughts, frosts, heat waves and warming-caused fire events. Because, the olive trees grow well even with low water irrigation and are naturally capable to regenerate after being hit by frost, heat waves, fire incidents due to its marvelous regeneration capacity thanks to their dormant buds,” Warraich stated. Warraich, who also leads the Prime Minister’s 10 Billion Tree Programme noted that Pakistan is witnessing frequent and intensifying droughts because of climate change-caused shifting and declining rainfall patterns for the last few years.

As a result, the country’s agriculture sector is suffering seriously in shape of crop failures and falling crop yields particularly in the highly climate-sensitive drought-hit regions in almost all provinces, he said.

“But being drought-resistant crop, olive can sustain such impacts of the changing weather conditions, boost farmers income and significantly reduce a huge burden of edible oil import bill of the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Adviser Malim Amin Aslam announced while chairing a meeting at the Barani Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) in Chakwal that given the abundant benefits of olive cultivation, the 50 million Olive Tree Tsunami plan will be launched soon in olive potentials areas identified in Punjab, KP and Balochistan in support with provincial and Federal Agriculture and Forest Departments.

Highlighting key aims of the initiative, he said that “This initiative will particularly aim for controlling soil erosion in parched lands, promoting soil conservation, increasing tree cover in drought-hit parts and most prominently boost production of olive on local basis to offset local climate change impacts as well as reduce burden of edible oil import bill on the national exchequer.” Earlier, he planted an olive tree at BARI research garden and visited different plots of olive tree plantations.