The Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project in Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province has surpassed its target by restoring and planting trees in 350,000 hectares of degraded forest landscapes.
Launched in 2015 by Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party, the Billion Tree Tsunami aims to turn the tide on land degradation and loss in the mountainous, formerly forested KPK province in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The campaign simultaneously helped KPK province fulfil its 348,400 hectare commitment to the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. This marks the first Bonn Challenge pledge to reach its restoration goal.
“The project is naturally restoring a previously deforested landscape, which will assist in meeting present and future needs and offers multiple benefits for climate adaptation and mitigation in a very climate-vulnerable province,” says Muhammad Tehmasip, Project Director of the Billion Tree Tsunami.
The project has achieved its restoration target through a combination of protected natural regeneration (60%) and planned afforestation (40%). In addition, it has established 13,000 private tree nurseries, which have already boosted local incomes, generated thousands of green jobs, and empowered unemployed youth and women in the province.
“IUCN congratulates the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on reaching this momentous milestone. The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative is a true conservation success story, one that further demonstrates Pakistan’s leadership role in the international restoration effort and continued commitment to the Bonn Challenge,” says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN.
The planted trees are reinforcing riparian embankments in important catchment areas, including along the banks of the Indus, Kunhar and Swat rivers. The project has also added tree resources to agricultural lands currently engaged in farm forestry, improved biodiversity by restoring wildlife shelters, and will contribute to CO₂ sequestration through new tree plantations.
In support of the Billion Tree Tsunami, the KPK government invested US$ 123 million in funding and will allocate an additional US$ 100 million to maintain the project through June 2020. This support makes the project one of the largest eco-investments ever made in Pakistan.
Restoration is also gaining important national support. In 2016, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the Green Pakistan Programme, with a goal to plant over 100 million trees in the country. Additionally, Pakistan made a national pledge to the Bonn Challenge in May 2017 to complement the existing KPK commitment – pledging 100,000 hectares during the first Asia Bonn Challenge High-level Roundtable in South Sumatra, and helping the Bonn Challenge cross the 150 million hectare milestone.