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Billion Tree Project and Lack of Funds: Saplings Planted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Merged Districts in Danger of Dying

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The saplings planted over hundreds of acres of land during the previous spring season in the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are in danger of dying after staff of the forest department abandoned their maintenance due to unavailability of funds, DAWN reported.

The report says the office of the conservator forests for merged districts couldn’t get Rs90 million from the provincial government to clear bills of contractors and labourers hired for the spring plantation drive.

The plantation over 3,000 hectares of land in tribal districts is part of the 10 Billion Trees Afforestation Programme 2018-23 (BTAP).

“Our forest range officers and forest guards cannot go out of their offices for the maintenance of plants as contractors and labourers run after them to get their wages,” said an official.

Official data shows that he department planted saplings over 3,126 hectares against the target of 6,095 hectares during the previous spring season in seven merged districts through different interventions apart from free distribution of 4475,000 saplings out of 3.6 million.

Sources said the row between the forest and tourism departments dating back to the alleged ‘biased role’ of the former in Malam Jabba land scandal had resulted in hiccup of release of funds for the new plantation carried out across the province, including merged districts under BTAP. The National Accountability Bureau is probing the high-profile land scam.

“The newly-planted saplings are at risk of dying if funds are not provided immediately,” a forest department official said.

The department needed Rs1.8 billion to clear the outstanding dues of contractors in all districts, including merged areas, he added.

Sources said the department concerned launched the spring plantation drive without the approval of PC-1 and release of funds from the federal and provincial governments.

He said the BTAP was an all-Pakistan project but the forest department launched the drive without approval of its PC-I.

“It is unprecedented to execute a project without approval of its PC-I,” he said adding that he thought some officials had overreacted by launching the drive in an attempt to inspire Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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