Pakistani Province Grows One Billion Trees and Restores 350,000 Hectares of Forest

A province in Pakistan has added 1 billion trees in just more than two years and surpassed an international commitment of restoring 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land. The “Billion Tree Tsunami” project is backed by cricketing legend Imran Khan’s, who now heads the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhaw.  The aim of the project is to slow down the effects of global warming in Pakistan, which is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of this phenomenon and has one of the highest deforestation rates in Asia.

Years of tree felling and natural disasters have reduced Pakistan’s forests to under 2 percent of its land area, one of the lowest levels in the region, according to a 2015 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report. About 40 percent of the country’s remaining forests are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

Imran Khan’s tree planting effort was expected to hit its billion-tree goal by the end of 2017, but was completed this month ahead of the deadline and now is expected to be extended across Pakistan.

The project was focused along the area beside the Gambila River, in the Bannu District, which was a barren wasteland due to severe floods and now is a thriving forest.

“If you plant trees, we have discovered, by the river banks it sustains the rivers. But most importantly, the glaciers that are melting in the mountains, and one of the biggest reasons is because there has been a massive deforestation. So, this billion tree is very significant for our future,” Mr. Khan said.

Provincial officials say the aim of one billion trees was achieved through a combination of protected natural regeneration (60 %) and planned afforestation (40%).

The PTI party leader launched the green project in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw as part of the global movement “The Bonn Challenge”, which goal is to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

The Bonn Challenge was set up in 2011 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and more than 20 countries have so far signed up to the commitment. The organization congratulated the Pakistani province on reaching the “momentous milestone.”

“The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative is a true conservation success story, one that further demonstrates Pakistan’s leadership role in the international restoration effort and continued commitment to the Bonn Challenge,” says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN.

Watch: Imran Khan Discusses Billion Tree Project


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