ISLAMABAD: Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP), the target of planting around 350 million trees and 814.6 million plants across the country has been achieved, as per the Economic Survey 2020-21 released here on Thursday.

The success of the Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa encouraged the government to launch the TBTTP across the country; the programme was approved by Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) at a cost of Rs125.1 billion.

The programme was launched for the revival of forest and wildlife resources in Pakistan and intended to improve the overall conservation of existing protected areas besides promoting eco-tourism, community engagement and create jobs.

During phase-I of the programme, plantation / regeneration of 3.2 billion trees will be completed. Around 100,000 daily wagers were employed until March 2021.

The government is confident that a target to plant one billion trees will be achieved by June 2021 and this project is expected to deliver an environmental dividend in preserving atmospheric health, reducing greenhouse gas effects, lowering cases of random floods, lowering rains, droughts and enhancing other biodiversity supportive actions.

It is anticipated that approximately 1.5 million jobs will be created directly or indirectly, the survey explained.

Pakistan is vulnerable to the effects of climate change which has occurred due to rapid industrialisation with substantial geopolitical consequences.

According to German Watch, Pakistan has been ranked in the top ten countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years. This can be seen in the impact of back-to-back floods since 2010, the worst drought episode (1998-2002) and more recent ones in Tharparkar and Cholistan, the intense heat wave of Karachi in July 2015, severe windstorms in Islamabad in June 2016, increased cyclonic activity and increased incidences of landslides and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in northern parts of the country.

Pakistan’s climate change concerns include increased variability of monsoons, the likely impact of receding Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan (HKH) glaciers due to global warming and carbon soot deposits from trans-boundary pollution sources, threatening water inflows into Indus River System (IRS), severe water-stressed conditions particularly in arid and semi-arid regions impacting agriculture and livestock production negatively, decreasing forest cover and increased level of saline water in the Indus delta also adversely affecting coastal agriculture, mangroves and breeding grounds of fish.

The survey further added that Pakistan was a forest deficient country, mainly due to arid and semi-arid climate in large parts of the country.

The country has a forest cover of over 4.51 million hectares that takes up 5.01pc area, out of which 3.4 million hectares of the forests exist on state-owned lands and remaining on communal and private lands.

Even though, forestry has a meager share of 2.1pc in agriculture, it provides foundations of life on earth through ecological function, regulates the climate and water resources and serves as habitat for plants and animals.

Rapidly growing population coupled with poverty and lack of awareness is leading to illegal and unsustainable logging whereas over harvesting of wood for fuel and charcoal continue to cause deforestation.

Moreover, forest fires, natural hazards along with pests and diseases further contribute to the declining rate. All these issues threaten the survival of species, people’s livelihoods and undermine the vital services that forests provide, the report stated.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021

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