PESHAWAR, April 16: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will bring 0.77 million acres of land under plantation and vegetative covers in the province next year to offset the effects of global warming and climatic change, says Minister for Environment Wajid Ali Khan.

Presiding over a meeting here at Civil Secretariat regarding afforestation on Monday, the minister said the step would register 1.15 per cent increase in the overall forest land in the province.

He directed the officers of forest department to initiate projects of planting olive, walnut and chalgoza plants in Chitral, Dir, Shangla and Hazara Division, which will also create job opportunities for the locals.

Mr Wajid Ali said forests were important component of natural resources, adding, ‘our natural forests are amongst the world's unique ecosystems but are under persistent threat of depletion due to heavy pressure for wood and other forest products. He maintained that the government would continue to make efforts to protect the precious forest resources of the province. However, the achievement of this objective is impacted by factors like poverty, population pressure and high price of timber, said the minister.

Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Pakistan is committed to increasing the forest cover by 1 per cent by 2015.

The recognition of the role of forests in climate change mitigation and acceptance of forest carbon trading under the ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation’ (REDD) mechanism has added a new dimension to the role of forests as a source of earning for the local and forest dependent communities.

The minister said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular and Pakistan in general were progressing steadily in bringing the benefits of REDD to the forest dependent communities and in the process were conserving biodiversity and promoting carbon sequestration as well.

The minister said in order to check the depletion of natural forests, well-planned and concerted efforts were needed, adding to rehabilitate these degraded forests and to harness the vast potential there was need to expand tree cover to meet household fuel wood requirements.

For realising sustained economic benefits for poverty alleviation and environmental stability, Wajid Ali Khan said the participation of farmers through a comprehensive national farm forestry programme was imperative.

He urged people to support government's endeavours by bringing maximum areas under plantation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He directed increase in nurseries and afforestation projects to make the province lush green.—APP