PESHAWAR: The Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project has significantly surpassed its target by restoring and planting trees across 348,000 hectares of degraded forest landscapes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Launched in 2015 by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ aims to turn the tide on land degradation and loss in mountainous, formerly forested KP.

The campaign simultaneously helped KP fulfill its 348,400 hectare commitment to the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Quite significantly, the KP entered the Bonn Challenge as the first sub-national entity to give a forestry pledge and now has become the “first” entity, amongst 45 national and sub-national entities, to have honoured its forestry commitment. This marks the first Bonn Challenge pledge to reach its restoration goal.

“The project is creating Pakistan’s best natural defence against climate change while also providing green jobs as well as a sustainable future for KP. Additionally, it is aiding the global fight against global warming by sequestering carbon in the expanding forests. This global recognition is a landmark for both KP and Pakistan,” said Malik Amin Aslam, chairman of KP’s Green Growth Initiative and the main architect of this project.

The project has achieved its restoration target through a combination of protected natural regeneration (60) per cent and planned afforestation (40 per cent). In addition, it has established 13,000 private tree nurseries, which have already boosted local incomes, generated thousands of green jobs, and empowered unemployed youth and women in the province.

“IUCN congratulates Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on reaching this momentous milestone. The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative is a true conservation success story, one that further demonstrates Pakistan’s leadership role in the international restoration effort and continued commitment to the Bonn Challenge,” says Inger Anderson, Director General of IUCN.

The planted trees are reinforcing riparian embankments in important catchment areas, including along the banks of Indus, Kunhar and Swat rivers.

In support of billion tree tsunami, the KP government invested $123 million in funding and will allocate an additional $100 million to maintain the project through June 2020. This support makes the project one of the largest eco-investments ever made in Pakistan.

Acting as a successful trail blazer, this project has also provided political momentum to forest conservation efforts which is now gaining important national support. In 2016, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced Green Pakistan Programme, with a goal to plant over 100 million trees in the country.

Additionally, Pakistan made a national pledge to the Bonn Challenge in May 2017 to complement the existing KP commitment – pledging 100,000 hectares during the first Asia Bonn Challenge High-level Roundtable in South Sumatra, and helping the Bonn Challenge cross the 150 million hectare milestone.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2017