Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday launched the 'Billion Tree Honey Initiative' to increase the production of honey through the plantation of trees.
Under the programme, the plantation of trees including Kao, Phulai, Ber, Kikar and other bee flora will be encouraged. A mechanism will be also be provided to support bee flora, improve the quality of honey production, provide livelihoods to beekeepers and sustain the activity through the provision of financial resources, Radio Pakistan reported.
Speaking at the launch ceremony in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran lauded the idea of using forests for honey production, saying it will provide jobs to locals. "When local people see they will make money and earn income, they will protect forests more than anyone," he said.
He noted that Pakistan's honey exports were very low despite there being a variety of honey in the country.
"We have 12 climatic zones which is very unique; 12 different zones mean 12 different habitats so we can make honey of different varieties," the premier said, adding that the government will assist producers with quality control, without which the product cannot be exported.
Prime Minister Imran also highlighted the potential of growing olive and avocado trees in the country, both of which he said had been planted in his home garden. Through olive plantation, Pakistan could be able to export olive oil and avoid the import of edible oil, he said.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said the Billion Tree Honey programme will help enhance the country's potential to produce 70,000 metric tonnes of honey in a year.
Under the initiative, he said, beekeepers will be trained and the value of the country's honey will be increased in the international market through proper branding and quality certification.
It is anticipated that marketing of 70,000 metric tonnes of honey will generate an income of around Rs43 billion in the national economy and provide about 87,000 green jobs, according to Radio Pakistan.
A memorandum of understanding was also signed among various organisations to promote beekeeping and tree plantation in the country.
Declining forest cover
In his speech, Prime Minister Imran emphasised that one of his government's biggest responsibilities was to reduce environmental degradation and take measures to rescue and improve forest cover, rivers and air pollution.
He said the PTI government was the first to think about planting trees in Pakistan's history.
"We decided that one billion trees will be planted and we were made fun of," he said. "Even now our opponents don't admit that this can happen because no one has thought of this; no one has thought about what will happen beyond five years."
He said in order to achieve success for its tree plantation experiment, the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had to confront the timber mafia and some forest guards were even killed in the process.
Prime Minister Imran noted that forest cover in Pakistan had fallen well below the world average, while groundwater was being polluted due to the pollution affecting rivers.
Concrete has replaced 70 per cent of the country's forest cover, he said, adding that unplanned cities like Lahore faced air pollution of dangerous levels, especially during winters, affecting the health of children and the elderly.
Noting that Pakistan was on the fifth spot on the list of countries likely to be most impacted by climate change, Prime Minister Imran said it was important for a government which thought about the welfare of its citizens and "doesn't think about the next election" to start planning from today how it will leave the country in a better state for coming generations.