ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government on Monday decided to form a technical advisory committee comprising foresters, ecologist, academia, civil society and media to reexamine the species to be planted under KP’s Billion Tree Tsunami project. The decision was taken during a billion tree tsunami project meeting’ held at the KP House on Monday, with former state minister for environment Malik Amin Aslam, in the chair. Former state minister for environment Malik Amin Aslam, KP Forest Secretary Nazar Shah, Muhammad Siddiqui Khan, Shabbir Hussain, Azhar Ali Khan, large number of forester, representatives from academia, civil society and the media also attended the meeting. The meeting was convened after a news story of planting “wrong species” such as conocarpus, eucalyptus, dodonea and mesquite, appeared in a newspaper and was circulated with foresters on All-Forester Network, maintained by a think tank LEAD Pakistan. Experts in this story criticised the project as several “non-native species” were selected for planting. Responding to the concerns, Malik Amin Aslam said that almost 50 percent of the project is accounted for by protected natural regenerations in existing natural forests. “For the rest of 50% of the billion tree target, more than 70 indigenous and locally popular species have been identified and are being planted as per local requirements, biodiversity considerations and ecosystem adaptability,” he maintained. He said that the tree tsunami project should be a source of pride for the country, as it has been duly recognised by the global ‘Bonn Challenge’ as well as audited by international organisations and no other project can fall under this category of global recognition and transparency. “Having said that, our team is ready to address any concerns that experts have regarding this project,” he added. Speaking on the occasions, Shabbir Hussain said that “going against the normal pace of investing up to Rs 400 million per year and planting of up to eight million seedlings, the project has started investing up to Rs 4,000 million per annum and planting pace of up to 200 million seedlings per annum”. “This is an unprecedented pace and the cost is very low, while 200 million seedlings will be planted under farm forestry, whereas 400 million seedlings are being induced through natural regeneration in natural forest ecosystems,” he underlined. Nazar Shah said that the total percentage of eucalyptus will be less than 10 percent in the project. “The figure of 50 percent ratio of eucalyptus is wrong – in Nursery 23 percent stock this year was of eucalyptus,” he clarified. He said that 40 million native species will further reduce this percentage. Responding to the planting of conocarpus, he stated that it might be less than 0.01% of the total plantation as it is only grown along roads and motorways. Shah also announced that he would form a technical advisory committee comprising foresters, academia, civil society and media, which will meet quarterly to look into such matters and ensure the smooth implementation of the project. Furthermore, a field visit to the project sites will also be organised on May 18 for the committee to know the ground situation of the project. It is worth mentioning here that the KP government had assigned Rs15 billion for the said project. It was acknowledged and formally registered under the global ‘Bonn Challenge’ – a voluntary regime set up under the UNFCCC umbrella for restoring 350 million hectares of forests around the world.