This August 2021 photo shows locals of Pakistan’s southern city of Hyderabad planting saplings on a barren patch of earth. The planting is part of the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami,” a drive to turn swaths of Pakistan green.
Pakistan’s epic tree-planting initiative was inspired by a project in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which began in 2014 and aimed to plant 1 billion trees in the region. The success of that program inspired former Prime Minister Imran Khan to launch a nationwide tree-planting drive in 2019.
The program is headed by Pakistan’s Ministry Of Climate Change and aims to plant 10 billion trees across the country by 2023. The stated goal is to “revive forest and wildlife resources in Pakistan, to improve the overall conservation of the existing protected areas; encourage eco-tourism, community engagement and job creation through conservation.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, workers on sustenance wages faced ruin when Islamabad imposed lockdowns. The “tree tsunami” project became a lifeline for some 84,000 people when the central government diverted idle workers to tree planting for a daily wage of 500 rupees ($3).
A tree planter told Reuters in 2020 during the height of the pandemic: "Due to the coronavirus, all the cities have shut down and there is no work. Most of us daily wagers couldn’t earn a living."
Thanks to the tree-planting initiative, "all of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families” he said.
Some have questioned whether trees will be able to survive on their own in many areas once payouts for workers end. The well-funded project has also been dogged by claims of corruption, which are under investigation.
For now however, the tree “tsunami” appears to be largely successful in dramatically increasing Pakistan’s green cover and the project is already being looked at with interest by other world leaders.
In September 2021, then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "blown away" by the project and invited "everyone to follow the example" of Pakistan's tree-planting drive.