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September 16, 2020

1bn saplings planted under tree tsunami, KP assembly told

Peshawar

September 16, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was told on Tuesday that the Billion Tree Tsunami was the fourth big project of its kind in the world wherein one billion saplings were planted and the project completed in just three years.

Winding up the debate on the Billion Tree Tsunami, Minister for Forests and Environment Ishtiaq Urmar told the House that Pakistan was among the 10 countries in the world that were bearing the brunt of climate change and this project was of vital importance to help reduce environmental degradation. The Rs22 billion project was completed in Rs15 billion in three years, saving Rs7 billion despite the fact that the cost of a project increased in every next budget, he claimed.

Rejecting the opposition’s allegations of corruption in the project, he said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and SPARCO had appreciated it as a success story. He said 500,000 people also got jobs in the project. Although bottlenecks could not be ruled out in the project, the government had itself held inquiries against 345 people and recovered large amount from them, he said, adding he himself wrote to the anti-corruption department to investigate if there was any irregularity. Challenging the opposition, the minister said he would resign if anybody proved the one billion saplings were not planted and he was ready for audit of the whole project if Maulana Lutfur Rahman presented the audit of a single madrassa. While pointing towards the PPP MPA, he said the party known for corruption was pointing the finger at Billion Trees project. Earlier, the opposition members Maulana Lutfur Rahman, Inayatullah Khan, Salahuddin Khan, Mir Kalam Wazir, Nisar Mohmand, Shakeel Bashir Umarzai, Waqar Khan, Sardar Khan, Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha, Mufti Hasamuddin and Bahadur Khan said though of vital importance huge corruption was committed in the project.

They said the criticism was not meant for the sake of opposition, but for reforms and improvement in the project. Inayatullah said an American scholar Noam Chomsky has termed nuclear weapons and environmental degradation as the big threat to human lives and said wildlife was decreasing due to climate change.

He said due to rapid industrialization and deforestation in the world Pakistan was among the most vulnerable countries. The cash payment was one of the major causes of fault in the Billion Tree project, he added. Salahuddin Mohmand said the Billion Tree project was important but Tsunami was a word known for destruction so it should not be called Tsunami project.

The opposition members said plantation of non-local species plants, selection of sites, irregularities in nurseries and distribution of saplings, lack of care to protect plants from animals were the main causes of shortcomings in the project. They suggested local communities be involved and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) be provided to the residents of hilly areas so that forest cutting for firewood can be controlled and there should be proper check on the forest officers to check deforestation.

The House unanimously adopted the Covid-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Bill, 2020 besides passing a resolution by Naeema Kishwar and Asia Khattak MPAs regarding World Democracy Day, asking the federal and provincial governments to take steps for strengthening of Parliament, independent judiciary, freedom of press and independent election commission as the country future was only a true democracy. Privilege motion against police, a DEO and others were also referred to the concerned committee. While the question of Inayatullah regarding incompletion of major projects in the stipulated time by the Planning and Development Department and Sahibzada Sanaullah’s question about promotions of administrative officers, clerks etc in the Prisons Department were referred to the concerned committees.

Earlier, the house witnessed a hullabaloo when a ruling PTI member Malik Liaqat hurled abuses at Nighat Orakzai of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). She staged a walkout from the House, tearing up pieces of the agenda.