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Olive plantation to help earn forex, ensure food security: PM

NOWSHERA/ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said that the olive plantation would prove the best investment for Pakistan in terms of earning valuable foreign exchange and ensuring food security.

Launching the olive plantation drive in Amangarh in Nowshera district, he said the country had immense potential for plantation of olive trees owing to suitable topography and climate from north to south.

He was accompanied by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Special Assistant on Climate Change Amin Aslam and others. Over 7,500 olive saplings are being planted at Nowshera as part of the initiative to promote olives cultivation and help save foreign exchange.

The government plans to plant 50 million olive trees in the country as part of the 10 billion Tree Tsunami programme. The prime minister said olive plantation can help tackle Pakistan’s food security problem, which he termed as the country’s biggest challenge. He mentioned that water-scarce areas such as Suleiman Mountains near Waziristan, Balochistan’s plains and Punjab’s diverse terrain offered environment for low-irrigation olive farming.

The prime minister said Pakistan had more potential than Spain, the leading olives producer in the world, and could explore the possibility of producing olives with an effective strategy of olive cultivation. The country, he said, was blessed with diverse landscape suitable to promote planting a variety of crops and fruit. He hoped the olive cultivation project would generate employment opportunities for the locals, both short and long-term, due to the long life of the plant.

Imran Khan said that Pakistan was among the 10 most vulnerable countries on the verge of receiving high effects of climate change. He said to save future generations from climate change, the plantation was the key step as it will also reduce the rising pollution level in big cities of the country. The prime minister mentioned the already launched Miyawaki Japanese technique at several sites in Lahore and Islamabad with an objective to get dense greenery at a faster than usual pace. He asked the head of the Forest Department to use a similar plantation method in Peshawar as the city was touching an alarming level of pollution.

“Pakistan spends a lot of money on import of edible oil that can be reduced with the production of olive oil locally by planting olive trees, particularly on the western bank of the river Indus,” he said. The prime minister lauded the efforts of Governor Shah Farman for materializing the 10 Billion Tree Project across the province. Earlier, the prime minister planted an olive sapling at the model plantation site of Amangarh in Nowshera, where cultivation of around 7,500 olive plants will be carried out.

He visited the cultivation area where he was given a briefing about the potential of the olive plantation. According to official data, the expected economic return of four million grafted olive plants after six years will be around Rs10.8 billion annually with a total income of Rs54 billion after 10 years. The olive oil production at the onset of the sixth year will be approximately 7.2 million litres with average fruit production per plant at 15kg. Governor Shah Farman and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Amin Aslam also spoke on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan was told Monday that a plan was being considered to create a special freight corridor for freight vehicles parallel to the Lahore-Karachi railway track through which Pipri will be connected to Karachi Port Trust. As a result, transportation will be easier and traffic problems in the Karachi city will be reduced significantly. In this connection, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting on ongoing reform process in Pakistan Railways, progress in Karachi Circular Railway project and Prime Minister’s Railway Green Initiative. Talking about railway reforms, the prime minister said that it was imperative to ensure uninterrupted reform process to get a national institution like Railways out of deficit. He said that better railway system would not only provide better transportation facilities to the people but would also help in resolving traffic related issues and improving the economy. The prime minister directed that he be kept abreast of the progress made in the reform process.

The meeting was attended by Railway Minister Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, federal secretaries and senior officers. Four trains privatised while another 15 will be handed over to the private sector. Referring to the Karachi Circular Railway project, it was informed that in this regard, Pakistan Railways has developed a model on BOT basis which will ensure better service to the passengers. A consultant has been appointed for the technical design and preparation of the financial model of the project, who will present his suggestions in 30 days.

About the reforms in railways, the meeting was told that a detailed reform programme was underway to reduce the losses of Pakistan Railways and save the organisation from sinking. In this regard, not only the private sector is being involved in railway operations but also key reforms like automation are being introduced in the company. The meeting was informed that so far four trainees had been privatised and work is underway to hand over 15 more trains to the private sector.

Regarding rail tourism, it was informed that a safari train has been started from Rawalpindi to Attock, which is being managed by the private sector. The prime minister was also briefed on the progress of ML-1 project. According to the Clean and Green Campaign, land has been identified for planting trees along with a 221km long track where trees will be planted. Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said the election of Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani from Balochistan and Mirza Muhammad Afridi from ex-Fata as Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate will strengthen the federation.Prime Minister observed this during a meeting with newly-elected Chairman and Deputy Chairman here who called on him. Defense Minister Pervaiz Khattak was also present at the meeting, says a Prime Minister Office statement.

He extended congratulations to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate. The Prime Minister said that elected leadership from Balochistan and former tribal areas in the Upper House was not only an honor for the people of those areas, which have been neglected in the past, but it will further strengthen the federation. He was hopeful that Chairman Senate would continue to discharge his responsibilities in his second term in the same zeal in which he had performed in the past. Earlier, on the election of Sanjrani and Afridi, Prime Minister had tweeted, “congratulations to Sadiq Sanjrani & Mirza Mohammad Afridi on winning Senate Chairman & Dy Chairman elections”. “I am happy Balochistan & former FATA got these two slots in line with my policy of mainstreaming those parts of Pak that have been marginalised or left behind in the past,” he had written on his Twitter account.