Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan had said that his government would establish 10 man-made forests like Changa Manga in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Changa Manga is one of the largest man-made forests in the world, which is located in the Punjab province.
In his speech to a large gathering at Garhi Chandan back in November 2015, the PTI chief had said these forests would create job opportunities for people.
“The government will pay each employee Rs. 15,000 a month,” he had added.
Truth Tracker repeatedly tried but KP Agriculture Minister Ikramullah Gandapur could not be reached for comment.
However, Malik Amin Aslam, chairman of the province’s Green Growth Initiative, said: “God willing, the target (billion trees plantation campaign and establishing of forests) will be achieved by the end of 2017.”
He said that the KP government has planted around 80 million saplings so far.
Referring to Khan’s promise of establishing 10 man-made forests, Aslam said that around 150,000 hectares of land has been added to the KP forest sector for that very purpose.
“The areas in Bannu, Karak and Peshawar districts are have been allocated for these forests,” he noted. He said that an area of around 7,500 hectares has been reserved for a forest like Changa Manga, which has 6,000 hectares of land.
“Most of the trees planted last year have now matured while the rest of the saplings would take two more years to turn into fully grown trees,” he added. “We asked for an audit of the trees from WWF,” he noted.
He went on to say that the billion tree tsunami project has encouraged community based protection of natural forests so that natural regeneration can enrich degraded forests.
He said that the natural reserve forests are mostly government owned and, under the project, have been managerially divided into blocks measuring 1,000 and 6,000 kanals.
Currently, over 600 such blocks of natural forests are being protected by community organised village development councils, which enforce a complete ban on tree felling. In turn, they are also incentivised through green jobs as they hire ‘forest nigahbans (protectors)’ from the community.
He said that the results in the first year are encouraging, with an average of 125 plants getting naturally regenerated on each kanal of protected forest at a much lower cost.
He said, “Most of these forests are being planted on the degraded range land of southern parts of the province.”
“The public- private arrangement,” he said, “is aimed at ensuring the ecological interest of the provincial government, as the growing trees will match the economic interest of the private sector of sustainably harvesting the plantations.”
“A total of 578 million saplings would have been generated and planted by the end of 2017,” he observed.
Zahid Khan, a stalwart from Awami National Party (ANP), said he did not see any new forest established by the PTI. However, he said, “Yes, the provincial government has removed director general of anti-corruption because he spoke of corruption in PTI’s billion trees campaign,” Khan noted.
“The PTI chairman is saying one thing and doing another,” he noted. “The previous ANP government,” he recalled, “was comparatively better than the PTI because the ANP established ten universities and 12 campuses during its tenure.”
“Can the PTI prove that they have established even a single university or college,” he asked. He said he fails to see the planted trees.
Sardar Aurangzeb, Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said: “Imran Khan has never fulfilled any of his promises.”
He reiterated that the exchequer of KP province has no money to pay its employees. The provincial government pays its employees from the Rs. 17 billion GP and pension funds.
“Forget about establishing new forests, there has been a record in corruption in the PTI’s billion trees campaign and even a small chunk of the funds is not spent on the Green Pakhtunkhwa drive,” he alleged.
He offered to visit his union council where the PTI-led government could not plant even 10 percent of the plants.
When asked whether the provincial government has established new forests, Sahibzada Sanaullah of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said, “Establishing a new forest is a distant dream, all you have to do is ask the PTI forest minister whether he (the minister) knows what kind of plants would suit a particular region.”
“My area, Malakand region, is providing a huge amount of timber to the country and the PTI officials are unaware about what kinds of trees are suitable to plant there,” he remarked.
When asked whether the PTI has established the 10 promised forests, Sanaullah said that the provincial government has planted some pines rather than eucalyptus in parts of the province. “They are planting eucalyptus in Peshawar City and claiming that they are planting forests,” he added.
Truth Tracker approached Hassan Khan, a senior journalist and independent analyst, who said of PTI chairman’s promise to establish 10 man-made forests, that their (PTI) claim does not match the ground realities.
He said the PTI has established nurseries in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but without proper care. “The PTI, had claimed that they will be planting 80,0000,000 saplings but experts questioned how it is possible because the entire land of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 70,000,000 to 80,000,000 square meters,” he added.
“I wonder how those figures match,” he added. “However, it does not mean that there are zero plantations, rather the PTI has planted saplings in various areas such as Galayat, Hangu and Kohat regions,” he noted.
“The KP government has made some plantations but they could not achieve their target,” he remarked. He said the PTI has, “Liberal counting of the planted saplings and secondly there is no post-care plantation mechanism.”
“The people hired by the PTI-led government for care of the plants have not received their salaries for the past five months so how will they take care of the plants,” he added.
The provincial government, he said has some plantation in southern districts of the province but he didn’t observe establishment of a formal forest by the PTI.
“I have not noticed any man-made forest, on the scale of Changa Manga, being established by the PTI,” Khan remarked.
In light of comments and views by the ruling, opposition lawmakers and independent analyst, Truth Tracker concludes that the PTI’s promise of establishing 10 forests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is underway.