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Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project, Pakistan


Description:

In the backdrop of the debates over accelerated deforestation, environmental degradation and climate change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province’s ruling party, the Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), started the Green Growth Initiative (GCI) in 2014. The initiative laid out a strategy for the greening of economic activities in Pakistan and included the Billion Tree Tsunami Project (BTTAP), the KPK National Parks project, and the Community Micro-Hydel project. This case focuses on the Billion Tree Tsunami Project, a project that proposes to plant 1 billion trees in the province. [1]

Under the Billion Tree Tsunami project, the forest area in KPK has been targeted for a major enhancement of between 20 to 22 per cent by 2018. This amounts to an additional 30,000 hectares of forestland, at the very least. Additionally, through enrichment measures, the tree cover of existing forests would be increased from anywhere between 20 to 30 per cent by 2018. 550 million tree saplings will be planted in two phases and the remaining 450 million saplings are being naturally generated in forest enclosures. [1]

The project has two major components:

1. Plantation

Under this program, 550 million tree saplings will be planted over 250,000 hectares [2]. This plantation will be done on governmental fallow land, communal land and private land. In the case of communal land, Village Development Committees (VDCs) are determining which land is selected for plantation. In the case of private land, owners can directly contract with the forest department. These plantations are done by the forestry department in collaboration with private entrepreneurs. Private landowners receive hefty sums for these contracts, in addition to having rights to sell these plants in the market after a stipulated number of years. 

The project has a very strong emphasis on including the community in protecting and nurturing the forests. To ensure this participation, Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) have been established. Both committees play a very crucial role as interface between state authorities and local communities. Some of the important duties assigned to these committees include the identification of which land will be forested, the distribution of cheques and the appointment of ‘forest nighabans’ [2]. Appointed for a 3-year term, the forest nighaban is someone from the community living near the forest, whose responsibility is to attend to the day-to-day management of the forest. 

While on the surface, VDCs and the appointment of locals as nighaban appear to ensure community participation, the state authorities have deliberately over looked local politics in this whole process. For example, many of these VDCs are powerful landowners of the area. There is little to no representation of landless or tenant classes in these committees. Ultimately, the committees who decide which areas to enclose consist of members not directly affected by the enclosures. Furthermore, the final selection of the nighabans is done by these same committees, who may give preference to their relatives. In many areas, the composition of VDCs and the nighaban point to this. For instance, in Agror-aanawal region, all members of the VCD are from the same ethnic group. All of them were Swatis and related to one another. The VDC also appointed three nighabans who were Swati and related to members of the VDC. There are also many Gujjar families in the area, but they have little to no representation in the committee. [3, 5]

2. Regeneration through enclosures 

The other major component of the BTTAP project is natural regeneration. For this purpose, around 450 million trees will be generated in enclosures; patches of forest where no activity is allowed. These enclosures are in reserve forests, which are state-owned forests [1]. Around 3,500 enclosures have been established throughout the province, with the total area under enclosure being 37,5000 hectares. These enclosures are closed for three consecutive years for grazing and other activities. Even the rights to passage, collect timber and cut grass are being withdrawn [3]. 

The enclosures for plant regeneration are having devastating effects on land tenure relations. Land distribution in the area is already skewed along ethnic lines. The major ethnic group in the area are Swati (consisting of various Pashtun tribes), Syeds and Gujjars. [4] Gujjars are mainly landless herders. They rent-in land from Swatis or other landowners. They raise animals, mostly goats, and sell them to the market. During the winter, when there is a shortage of grass and fodder, the Gujjars rent private land for grazing. In the summer, they move their herds to common pastures in the Kaghan Valley. And at start of winter in September, they move back to Jabori, with some going even further down to Haripur. For the Gujjars, access to land is central to their survival. If they don’t have access to land, they will be unable to graze their animals and support themselves. [4]

The announcement of the BTTAP project brought with it a change in how land was used in the area. For instance, now landowners could contract with the forest department to plant trees on their land in return for an assurance that these plants will be protected for five years. After five years, landowners have de-facto rights to cut and sell these plants in the market. Also, landowners are given the discretion to choose which species of tree is planted. In most cases, they choose Eucalyptus because of its fast growth. According to many of the landowners, Eucalyptus will generate more surplus than rent from tenants. Many of the landowners have therefore decided to take their land back from the tenants and enter into contracts with the forest department. Many of the Gujjars have lost access to the private land on which they used to graze their animals in the winter. Some of those Gujjars have even had to sell all their herds and move to the city to find work. Some have also started working as labourers in the local market. [3,5] 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project, Pakistan
Country:Pakistan
State or province:Khyber PakhtunKhwa
Location of conflict:Multiple cities
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The project has two major components.

1. Plantation: Under this program, 550 million tree saplings will be planted over 250,000 hectares [2].

2. Regeneration through enclosures: The other major component of the BTTAP project is natural regeneration. For this purpose, around 450 million trees will be generated in enclosures; patches of forest where no activity is allowed. These enclosures are in reserve forests, which are state-owned forests [1]. Around 3,500 enclosures have been established throughout the province, with the total area under enclosure being 37,5000 hectares.

Project area:625,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project47,809,167
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:01/03/2014
Relevant government actors:Govt. of KPK, Pakistan
Department of Forest, Wildlife and Environment

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Pastoralists
ethnic Gujjars
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Property damage/arson

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsAfforestation
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4] Sultan-i-Rome, (2016). Land and forest governance in Swat. Lahore: Oxford university press.

[5] Ashraf, U. (2018). Political Ecology of afforestation in Pakistan. Ecología Política, 55 (1).
http://www.ecologiapolitica.info/?p=10758

[1] The News on Sunday, 7 January 2018 "Shady trees". (accessed online 12.09.2018).
http://tns.thenews.com.pk/shady-trees/

[2] BTTAP (2014). ‘Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project’. Accessed online 10.09.2018
http://103.240.220.71/btt/

[3] Jamhoor Media 02 Feburaru 2018, “Marginalized by conservation”. (accessed 10.02.2017)
https://www.jamhoor.org/read/2018/2/8/marginalized-by-conservation-the-billion-trees-tsunami-project

Meta information

Contributor:Usman Ashraf, alumnus ISS, The Hague. [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3566

Images

 

BTTP Project

Source and Credit: BTTP, http://103.240.220.71/btt/photo-gallery-january-2017/#!

Seedlings

Source and Credit: BTTP, http://103.240.220.71/btt/photo-gallery-january-2017/#!