With many countries locked up to avoid spreading the virus, many workers suddenly find themselves out of work and without a source of income. Pakistan, locked up since March 23, found a way to help them while helping the environment.
Unemployed daily workers are given new jobs by the government as “forest workers,” planting billions of trees across the country to deal with the climate threat that has affected Pakistan. That is called a green stimulus, helping people while dealing with the effects of climate change.
“Because of the coronavirus, all cities have been closed and there are no jobs. Most of us bet everyday we can’t make a living, “Rahman, a resident of Rawalpindi district in Punjab province, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Now, thanks to this new program, he earns 500 rupees ($ 3) a day by planting trees.
The government’s plan was introduced by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018 and will last five years, hoping to fight rising temperatures, floods, droughts and other extreme weather conditions – now more common in Pakistan due to global warming.
The Global Climate Risk Index, released by the Germanwatch think tank, ranks Pakistan fifth on the list of countries most affected by climate warming for the past 20 years – although it only contributes a small part of global greenhouse gases.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Pakistan, the tree planting campaign was initially stopped as part of a social deviance order to slow the spread of the virus. A recent assessment by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics found that, due to locking, up to 19 million people could be dismissed, almost 70% of them were in the Punjab province.
But earlier this month, the prime minister made an exception to allow forestry institutions to restart the program and create more than 63,600 jobs. This means tree initiatives can provide substantial assistance to many of those who struggle economically. Abdul Muqeet Khan, chief forest conservator for Rawalpindi district, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the planting project was in “full swing”. Most of the work is underway on 15,000 hectares (6,000 hectares) near the capital city of Islamabad, he said, as well as in other fields of state-owned forests throughout the country.
This year, the program employs three times the number of workers employed in its first year, said Malik Amin Aslam, climate change advisor for the prime minister. Many new jobs are being created in rural areas, he said, focusing on hiring women and unemployed day laborers.
According to Germanwatch, Pakistan reported more than 150 extreme weather events – from floods to heat waves – between 1999 and 2018, with a total loss of $ 3.8 billion. Environmentalists have long advocated reforestation as a way to assess this problem, with forests helping to prevent flooding and providing cool space.
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