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May 13, 2019

Plantation of trees turns Garhi Chandan into man-made forest


May 13, 2019

PESHAWAR: A barren landscape near the provincial capital that has turned green after the establishment of a man-made forest now presents a better venue for promotion of eco-tourism at just 15 kilometers drive from the city.

The desert-like wide piece of land at Garhi Chandan and Azakhel is no more as dry as it was only a few years ago. Most of the saplings planted by the Forest Department under the Billion Tree Afforestation Project some four years back have grown into trees and completely changed the scenery as well as environment of the area. According to the Forest Department officials, around 3.2 million saplings have been planted in the man-made forest covering 7,500 acres of land. The survival and growth result of the trees planted in the area are surprisingly high.

The effective care and replacement of dead plants by the Forest Department staff and cooperation of local community enabled almost 100 percent of the planted saplings to grow up.

The massive tree plantation on the site has helped revive the habitat, providing a good destination to wildlife to make it their permanent abode. It is perhaps due to the plantation of trees that the dried land has started conserving water and at some points of the vast area springs have started sprouting. At one point somewhere in the middle of the plateau-like huge landscape, the spring water has made a big pool. The Forest Department officials and local community believe it can be developed into a dam. The water is fully utilized and has reduced the burden of the staff responsible for taking care of the forest. “We used to bring water in tankers from Chamkani at least 17 kilometers away. But now we utilize this water. We have made makeshift water tanks on the top of these mud hills all around and are filled with water pumped out of this pond in long pipes,” a worker at the site said.

The Forest Department arranged a visit to the area for some senior officials and selected group of journalists to see prospects for eco-tourism and met members of the local community. Special secretary forest, environment and wildlife department Zariful Maani, additional secretary Masood Ahmad, chief conservator Niaz Ali Khan, district forest officer Gulzar Khan and other officials were present on the occasion. At the starting point of the Garhi Chandan forest, the local community had gathered to welcome the guests and inform them of their problems. Jahangir Khan, a district council member from the area, highlighted some key issues faced by the local community. He said with the tree plantation the area has come into the limelight, which was a positive development. He said the local population was facing serious problems such as lack of drinking water and education and health facilities.

He was also worried about the non-payment of wages to the local workers employed in the project. He stressed the need for provision of natural gas to the area, arguing it would help preserve the forest.

Zariful Maani assured the gathering that the salaries of the local employees would be released before Eidul Fitr. He said every effort would be made for provision of gas to the area and establishment of school and a basic health unit. Talking to The News later, Zariful Maani said that the Forest department was interested in taking some initiatives for the well-being of the local community. He said that the director non-timber forest project has been specially invited for the visit so that projects like honey-bee farming could be launched in the area.

He said the site could also be developed an eco-tourist spot. “For this purpose, roads and tracks should be established in the man-made forest and linked with the main routes leading to the site from all four sides,” he added He was optimistic that the site would soon become a tourist spot as it already had enough natural beauty that has been multiplied by the massive plantation of trees.

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