Ministry of Climate Change will be releasing funds to KP government for payment of salaries of the staff under 10-Billion Trees Afforestation Project (10-BTAP), Advisor to Prime Minister on Climate Change Amin Aslam said while talking to media on Wednesday. He was briefing a delegation of media persons on the project status and achievements under the earlier Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP). “Because of the humongous size of the project, the ministry had to combine eight PC-I documents and get the necessary approvals, which we have got now,” Aslam said, explaining the unprecedented delay in transference of funds and resultant non-payment of salaries for seven months. But now, he said, the CDWP would be meeting on Thursday and if approved, payment would be released the same day. Talking about the 10-BTAP, he said that it was the biggest target set by any country in such a short period of time. “But we are confident to achieve the target because of our huge success in KP on BTAP that ended last year after achieving more than its initial target,” the adviser said. The billion trees project, as per the ministry’s released data, was successful in planting approximately 1.2 billion trees till April 2018.It is not possible for Daily Times to independently verify this claim. The average number of plantation per unit area, however, was verified by the office holders of Village Development Committees in Southern & Central, Malakand and Hazara Forest Regions. The adviser claimed that after the successful completion of BTAP, the next huge target of 10-BTAP was expected to bring revolutionary change in not only environment, but also in people’s livelihood. According to the IUCN, the international organisation working on environmental issues, tree plantation over an area of two square kilometres increases average rainfall in that area. Under the BTAP, the approximate area of plantation was around 159,821 hectares. With increased target of 3-4 billion more trees in KP under 10-BTAP, the rainfall is expected to increase manifold. In terms of income generation for the people living on mostly barren land, matured trees would produce ready income in next 3-4 years. Moreover, the plantation of millions of firewood producing trees is expected to be greatly useful for people of these remote areas where natural gas and electricity are generally inaccessible luxury. The adviser also informed that total expected cost on 10-BTAP would be around Rs 125 billion, which would be appropriately distributed among the provinces over four years. For this fiscal year, an amount of Rs 7.5 billion is being released to provinces, which are expected to contribute the same amount for this year from their own budget. In Sindh, the federal ministry has signed an agreement with Pakistan Army for tree plantation in Katcha area. Before the briefing, media persons were taken to all three forest regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where they were briefed by senior officials of Forestry Department including Azhar Ali Khan, Chief Conservator Hazara Region; Riaz Khan Tanoli, Chief Conservator Malakand Region; and Niaz Ahmed, Chief Conservator Southern & Central Region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Peshawar, Ishtiaq Urmar, Provincial Minister of Forests, Environment and Wild Life, also met the media delegation and strongly rejected allegations of corruption in the BTAP. “Our officials and community representatives are trying their best to ensure transparency and curb any corrupt practices whenever they are found anywhere. But the fact of the matter is, this project is role model for all social development initiatives in Pakistan for its management, transparency and achievements”, Urmar said.