The initiative is part of Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, an ambitious forest restoration project, and provides a template for the type of “green recovery” that countries can embark upon in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to coronavirus, all the cities have shut down and there is no work. Most of us daily wagers couldn’t earn a living,” a construction worker named Abdul Rahman told TRF.
While Rahman’s wages of 500 rupees ($3) per day are around half of what he could have made “on a good day” as a construction worker, he said it was enough to get by.
“All of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families,” he told TRF.
Pakistan went into lockdown on March 23 in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 10 Billion Tree Program was halted in order to comply with social distancing measures, but Prime Minister Imran Khan later granted an exemption for the program to continue.
Pakistan has been projected to see as many as 19 million layoffs due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Government officials have said that this reforestation program will create over 63,600 jobs, which will pay between 500 rupees and 800 rupees per day, according to TRF.
Most of the newly created jobs have been in rural areas, and workers have been told to wear masks and keep 2 metres of social distance between themselves, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Many of the workers hired are young people who have returned home from locked down cities.
“This tragic crisis provided an opportunity and we grabbed it,” Malik Amin Aslam, climate change advisor to the prime minister, told TRF. “Nurturing nature has come to the economic rescue of thousands of people.”
Great idea!— Erik Solheim (@ErikSolheim) May 10, 2020
Pakistan 🇵🇰 is paying people out of work in the pandemic for planting trees 🌳. Triple win - good for climate, good for nature, good for jobs!
There are over 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan, and over 900 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The economic consequences of the pandemic are also likely to be dire, with global poverty projected to increase for the first time in 20 years.
Pakistan launched its plan to plant 10 billion trees over the course of five years back in 2018, following a successful effort by the government of the Pakistani province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to plant a billion trees.
Restoring forests is also a key tool in the fight against climate change, as forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.