PESHAWAR, Jun 11 (APP):Grean Pakistan, a key initiative of the federal government to combat the climate change, desertification and reverse deforestation have received substantial allocation in the budget 2023-24 aimed at strengthening of the forestry and wildlife resources.
Being implemented through the Ministry of Climate Change Division with a huge allocation of Rs 4050 million under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) in the budget 2023-24, the government under its Green Pakistan programme has announced various key projects for the promotion of forestry, wildlife, environment and biodiversity resources in all provinces of Pakistan for well being of people.
“The budget is pro-forestry and agriculture as evident from the huge allocation of Rs4,050 million for various gigantic projects of the climate change division for the upcoming fiscal year that would make Pakistan green,” said Gulzar Rehman, former conservator of forests KP while talking to APP on Sunday. He said the huge budget for green sector would greatly help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Pakistan is confronted to monster challenges of desertification, eco-degradation, deforestation and climate change and whopping plantation was the most viable option to address these environmental issues with less investment,” he said.
The National Forest Policy 2015 has revealed that Pakistan was losing about 27,000 hectares of forests per year due to high rate of deforestation, wood demands of increasing population and socioeconomic imbalances.
The forest resources were under tremendous pressure mostly in community and private-owned natural forests in Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa, the Policy said. In watershed areas, deforestation was making a negative impact on agriculture yield and quality of water at outlets besides triggering land degradation, floods and the loss of biodiversity.
The policy further said in riparian, low-lying and coastal areas, the deforestation and climate change-induced weather patterns including rainfalls, floods and glaciers’ melting were posing threats of amplifying sea water intrusion.
He said preciously, the agricultural land was badly affected by the last year’s devastating flood due to which the salinity increased in the soil making it unproductive for agriculture purposes.
He said environmental degradation and climate change in Pakistan are adversely affecting the economy, livelihood of the poor and sustainable development.
Gulzar said that Green Pakistan was an important initiative of the government launched through climate change division that showed Govt highest priority to strengthen forestry sector to counterbalance the effects of environmental challenges.
Tauheedul Haq, former Conservator KP Forest Department hailed Federal Budget and Green Pakistan program, adding such programs were helpful in maintaining of ground watertable.
He said Pakistan was gradually heading towards water stress country due to climate change-induced weather patterns and shortage of dams, which might lead to food insecurity for living creatures in future.
According to National Water Policy, the per capita surface water availability had declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016 and this quantity would likely to further drop to 860 cubic meters in next few years if deforestation continues with existing pace.
The policy warned that the groundwater situation was expected to further drop in the country mostly in Punjab and Sindh provinces, where about one million tube wells were currently pumping about 55 million acres feet (MAF) of underground water for irrigation, which is 20pc more than that available from canals.
The budget document revealed that under the ongoing schemes, the government had allocated Rs 3,950 million for three ongoing schemes including Rs 26.5 million for capacity building on water quality and monitoring and SDG (6.1), Rs 20.95 million for Climate Resilient Urban Human Settlements Unit and Rs 3,902.55 million for a revised project of Up-scaling of Green Pakistan Programme.
Under the new schemes, he said that Rs 100 million was earmarked for the Pakistan Bio-safety Clearing House (Pak-BCH) for GMOs Regulation, Rs. 2,800 million for a national programme for the improvement of watercourses phase-II, Rs. 900 million for the national programme for enhancing the commend area in Barani areas of Pakistan and Rs. 700 million for the promotion of olive cultivation on a commercial scale.
Talking to APP, Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Deputy Project Director of Ten Billion Trees Afforestation Project welcomed the Federal Budget 2023-24 and Green Pakistan program. He said that the Program would help combat climate change and environmental challenges. He said climate change is expected to increase the frequency of heavy precipitation in the country, especially in KP, which can harm agricultural crops by eroding soil and depleting soil nutrients.
He said heavy rains can also increase agricultural runoff into oceans, lakes, and streams that can harm water quality and negatively impacted wildlife and aquatic resources, adding water table is dropping due to excessive water usage by the car washing stations and fast glaciers melting.
The Met Office spokesman told APP that the national rainfall recorded last month was excessively high and above average i.e plus 127pc and stands second wettest rainfall in May during the past 63 years as 34.30 mm rainfall was recorded in 1987.
The record breaking rainfall and hailstorms recorded in May last and the yesterday’s devastated storms coupled with rainfalls in Bannu and Lakki Marwat have badly affected the production of watermelon, melon and tomato crops in these areas.
To counter climate change and deforestation, he said the Billion Trees Afforestation Project was launched in 2014 under which around 1.20 billion saplings were planted in its first phase in Khyber Pakthunkhwa.
He said the program was later extended to all provinces of Pakistan in 2018 where 10 billion plants including the additional one billion in KP would be planted to offset the effects of climate change and deforestation.
He said that the national project was being implemented by the Ministry of Climate Change along with provincial forest departments and would continue in the upcoming fiscal year.
Ibrahim said that 690.16 million plants including 352 million through 6081 enclosures and 337.06 million by farm forestry under the 10 billion trees afforestation project were planted by April 30, 2023. The provincial climate change policy 2016, range land policy and the REDD plus strategy were implemented in the province, he added.