15 Mar 2022 | Story | S+50

Pakistan’s Ten Billion Tree Tsunami leading the way in ecosystem restoration decade

As the world prepares to mark five decades of the environmental movement at Stockholm +50 this June, we're looking back at projects and initiatives that have positively impacted the environment and people’s lives - and how we can accelerate action on sustainability.

Almost one year into the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, Pakistan is showing what is possible by pushing forward on its Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project (TBTTP).

The ambitious project – which aims to revive forest and wildlife resources in Pakistan and bring a host of other benefits – planted 1.42 billion trees between 2019 and December 2021, covering 1.36 million acres across almost 10,000 sites.

“Large scale restoration initiatives such as The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project are central to Pakistan’s efforts to support the UN Decade and to increase ecosystem restoration,” said Dechen Tsering, UNEP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “We are at a point in history where we need to act, and Pakistan is leading on this important effort.”

Pakistan, which hosted World Environment Day in 2021, is particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) before the TBTTP project began found that that only around five per cent of the country has forest cover, against a global average of 31 per cent, making it one of the six countries most susceptible to climate change.

According to a UN Development Programme (UNDP) report, Pakistan is particularly susceptible to increased variability of monsoons, receding Himalayan glaciers and extreme events including floods and droughts. The knock-on effects of these will be an increase in food and water insecurity.

It is a problem the Pakistan government is aware of and is looking at urgently addressing. As well as the TBTTP the government has committed to increasing its Protected Areas to 15 per cent by 2023. In 2018 they stood at 12 per cent; by mid-2021 they stood at 13.9 per cent.

Environmental problems in Pakistan are exacerbated by its large population. It is the fifth most populous country in the world, which puts increasing strain on the environment. Additionally, according to the World Bank, over 24 per cent of Pakistan’s population lives in poverty, which puts them at greater risk to impacts of climate change. This is largely because they have a higher dependency on natural resources and are less able to cope with climatic variability.

The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Inclusive Wealth Report for Pakistan, a first-of-its-kind accounting of the country’s natural, human and produced capital, found that between 1990 and 2014 Pakistan suffered a decline in natural capital, a trend which is now being reversed.

“It is worrying that we’ve seen declines in natural capital, including in Pakistan,” said Tsering. “But it is promising to see the steps that the country’s government is taking to turn things around, particularly with its restoration projects.”

The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami is not only helping restore ailing ecosystems and improve natural capital; it is also supporting livelihoods. The project is expected to create jobs for almost 85,000 daily wagers. In addition, Pakistan’s protected areas initiative will create almost 7,000 long-term jobs.


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