PESHAWAR: As the countrywide lockdown continues due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid-19), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s forest department has decided to engage thousands of daily-wage workers during the ongoing tree plantation campaign for three months.
Sources said the strategy for that engagement of daily wage workers in forestry sector had been framed in the light of the federal government’s decision to generate employment opportunities in the prevailing crises arising in the backdrop of the disease.
“Our strategy is to create green jobs during the virus outbreak to cope with unemployment,” said a senior functionary of the forest department.
He said the people had lost daily wage jobs since Covid-19 had broken out.
The official said standard operating procedures were being followed to ensure the safety of workers during plantation campaign and laboures had been provided face masks.
He said the local communities would get jobs on their doorstep during the campaign.
The department had launched a plantation drive under the 10-Billion Trees Afforestation Programme, a joint venture of the federal and provincial governments. The afforestation campaign was suspended due to the outbreak of the disease.
Under the strategy, the department is engaging around 19,353 daily-wage workers in green sector for three months (April, May and June). Every worker will be paid Rs500 per day.
The province has been divided into three forest regions, central-southern region comprising merged tribal districts, southern districts and Peshawar Valley, northern region and Malakand region.
Official documents show that the department is engaging 7,465 daily wagers in Region-I, 4,778 in Region-II and 7,110 in Region-III under three categories, including nurseries, plantations and forest enclosures.
Rs317.34 million is the estimated budget for labourers requirement in nurseries is, Rs426.24 million for plantation drive and Rs127.305 million for forest enclosures. The department requires the hiring of 7,052 labourers for nurseries, 9,472 for plantation and 2,829 for forest enclosures.
The forest department has planned to plant of a total of 100 million saplings in the province by the end of next June.
The spring plantation drive was kicked in some areas in Feb and 75 million saplings had been planted during the ongoing campaign in the province. Plantation on 1,455 enclosures has been completed during the ongoing campaign and has done afforestation on all categories on 8200.756 hectares out of the total 19,101 hectares.
The federal government had announced the growing of 10 billion species across the country by 2023. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where one billion trees have already been grown under the Billion Tree Tsunami Project since 2013, will plant additional one billion saplings under the BTAP. The estimated cost of the BTAP is Rs27 billion to be equally funded by the federal and provincial governments.
A senior conservator told Dawn that millions of plants grown in tubes in official and private nurseries would spoil if the ongoing plantation drive did not complete successfully.
“Around 500,000 saplings were grown in tubes on one acre land,” he said, adding that forest department had to plant grown up saplings during the ongoing season at any cost.
The official said the department should make payment to daily-wage workers by cross cheque to ensure transparency and carry out tight monitoring of plantation.
PROFITEERS WARNED: Spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government Ajmal Wazir on Saturday said the price hike of essential commodities was neither acceptable for the government nor would it allow that under any circumstances.
“We will discourage market manipulation by anti-people elements and will bring them to justice,” he said during a visit to several parts of Peshawar city.
Mr Wazir said the government would continue to go all-out for the availability of essential commodities on the market.
The spokesman said regulated and planned disruption of social life was the best known prevention strategy against coronavirus.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2020