ISLAMABAD: The National Highway Authority (NHA) and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) have signed an agreement to plant olive trees on highways’ and motorways’ right-of-ways which will produce olives in three years.

Under the memorandum of understanding, which was signed by NHA General Manager M-1 Amjad Ali and NBP Vice President Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saima Rahim on Wednesday, the NBP will provide the NHA 11,000 saplings for the Islamabad-Peshawar (M-1) motorway and other highways free of cost.

The NBP has already donated 2.4 million saplings to the NHA for national highways, the ceremony was informed.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said at the event that local researchers in Chakwal have produced a unique species of olives that are better than Italian olives, as their trees only give fruit every three years.

Communications Minister Murad Saeed said the plantation of 10 billion trees would help the country become greener and fight the adverse effects of climate change.

Under the Clean and Green Pakistan initiative, the NHA is beautifying highways and motorways and the public is responsible for playing their role in keeping them clean, he added.

Mr Saeed said that under his supervision, the NHA would become self reliant and would generate Rs100bn in the last year of the current government. The present income of the authority has risen to Rs35bn, he added.

He added that the ground-breaking of the Pakistan’s largest build, operate and transfer (BOT) project, the Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway, would be held soon.

He claimed that most China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) road projects have been completed, and work on the western route has begun.

Mr Saeed also lashed out at the opposition, claiming: “Past rulers used to build palaces for themselves but did nothing for the poor. The PTI government launched shelter homes and langar khanas for the homeless and poor people and PTI’s flagship programmes – the Kamyab Jawan and Ehsaas programmes – turned Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.”

He said that 5.7 families have benefited from the Insaf Sehat Card health insurance scheme. He said the Sindh government was not cooperating with the federal government for its inclusion in the Insaf Sehat Card scheme.

Mr Aslam said Pakistan is one of the countries most affected by climate change and the issue needs to be tackled on a war footing.

“After the success of the billion tree tsunami project in KP, the PTI government has launched the 10 billion trees project, which is being replicated in other countries,” he added.

Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said the NBP should be appreciated for donating 11,000 olive saplings to the NHA as part of its corporate social responsibility.

She said the recent snowfall, landslides and avalanchein Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir were proof that climate change was the most serious threat facing humanity.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020