Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday stressed for enhanced forestation in the county to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and promoting the production of exportable agriculture-related products such as honey, olives, avocado, and other fruits and vegetables for wealth creation.
With the depleting forest cover, and increasing air and water pollutions, Pakistan had become the fifth country in the world being affected by the climate change, he said while addressing the launching ceremony of ‘Billion Tree Honey’ Initiative here.
The initiative – part of the Prime Minister’s vision of a Clean and Green Pakistan, is aimed at promoting tree plantation to support production of honey in the country under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP).
The prime minister said with 70% depletion in the country’s forest cover due to negligence of previous regimes, one of the big challenges faced by his government was to reverse the situation through various measures such as the initiative of 10 billion tree tsunami programme.
He said contrary to the past regimes which did not think about humans and coming generations but for the next elections, the present government was fulfilling its obligations of putting the country back on the right track of clean environment.
Imran Khan said for the first time in the country’s history the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched and successfully achieved the billion tree plantation programme, a fact also recognized by international institutions, including the World Bank.
He said the initiatives like “Billion Tree Honey” would help protect the forests as the local people, including bee-keepers, would take ownership of the area and not let anyone to cut trees due to their financial interests.
Such initiatives supported by the government, he added, would also help promote the culture of enhanced tree plantation for the benefit of people and country alike, and create employment opportunities.
He said the country’s known forests in Kundian (Mianwali District) and Changa Manga (Kasur District) had been devastated due to ill planning and leasing of lands to the people on political grounds in the past.
The prime minister since Pakistan was bestowed by Allah Almighty with diverse climatic zones due to mountains, plains, coastal lines, there was a need to tap that natural potential by promoting tree plantation and production of variety of fruits and vegetables to enhance exports.
He said for example the areas of Sulaiman Range, at the right bank of Indus River, was best for planting of precious olive trees, which could help check the country’s annual US$ 3 billion edible oil import.
Similarly, the prime minister said fruits like avocado and others could be produced for export.
He, however, added that in order to achieve enhanced exports of fruits and vegetables, particularly in the Middle East, required the quality control and effective branding and marketing of the products.
Imran Khan said as Pakistan was the second youngest population in the world, the promotion of value addition in agriculture and other products would help check poverty, create employment opportunities and strengthen economy.
He lauded the efforts of Ministry of Climate Change for taking various measures and initiatives towards a clean and green Pakistan.
Earlier, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul and Special Assistant to the PM on Climate Change, in their remarks, highlighted various aspects of the “Billion Tree Honey” Initiative.
About 10,000 beekeepers are using 300,000 colonies for producing 7,500 metric tons of honey annually.
The potential can be enhanced to produce 70,000 metric tons of honey from the same harvest by using modern bee keeping gears, training on the latest techniques, standardization / certification of the product and intensive marketing.
It is anticipated that marketing of 70,000 metric tons of honey will generate an income of about Rs. 35-43 billion in the national economy and provide about 87,000 green jobs.
Plantation of trees, including Kao, Phulai, Ber, Kikar and other bee flora is being encouraged under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme (TBTTP).