Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative was started in 2018 as a way to help the country fight the mounting effects of global climate change. This effort would be a massive positive to a country that according to the Global Climate Risk Index of 2020 ranks fifth in a list of countries that were affected the most by planetary heating over the past twenty years. From 1999-2018, the country reported over 150 extreme weather events, with the rate increasing as time has gone on.
The coronavirus has also created massive economic difficulty for the country, as millions have gone out of work due to the pandemic lockdowns. The program will hire people to plant 10 billion trees in the desert region over a five year peroid. This effort echoes similar programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps in the United States—a program which was born out of FDR’s New Deal and aimed to help unemployment in the 1930s by hiring people for public works projects.
Although Pakistan has been on lockdown since March 23 to help slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus, the Prime Minister has issued exceptions to day laborers associated with this project. In addition, he has hired 63,000 laborers facing unemployment from these municipal lockdowns to continue the work. Workers are paid between 500-8,000 rupees (about $7 to $106) a day, which amounts to about half of their usual wages, but helps alleviate some of the unemployment population in Pakistan. Malik Amin Aslam, the Climate Change Advisor to the Prime Minister, this situation “has taught us the valuable lesson that when you invest in nature it not only pays you back, but also rescues you in a stressed economic situation.”
All workers are required to wear masks and remain 6 feet away from each other while working. So far 30 million indigenous saplings have been planted in the Punjab area alone since the start of this campaign, with the goal to have 50 million trees planted by the end of the year.