CHITRAL: Out of work labourers numbering over 500 have been employed by the forest department for tree plantation in Chitral during the coronavirus lockdown.
While the COVID-19 pandemic rendered daily wage earners jobless, the forest department has emerged as a temporary employer for many out of work people to earn livelihoods for their families across Chitral.
Talking to ChitralToday, District Forest Officer (DFO) Shaukat Fayaz Khattak said as the season for tree plantation in Chitral started his department hired out of work labourers to plant saplings and earn Rs500 per day while sitting in their homes.
He said during the plantation season, about 0.8 million saplings would be planted in both Upper and Lower Chitral districts till the end of May.
It may be noted that the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently acknowledged Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Green Stimulus” package as a part of the government’s efforts to extend green cover in the county and create job opportunities for the youth, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The DFO said plantation in five sites had almost been completed in Upper Chitral while two sites completed and work on four others was underway in Lower Chitral.
He said plantation in the high altitude areas such as Lowari and Madaklast also started last week.
The DFO said as many as 0.25 million saplings were being planted along riverbeds that would also help protect villages from river flooding.
Besides, work on construction of protection walls along rivers in many areas is also underway that will not only save the newly-planted saplings but would also protect private land and other properties from being washed away by flooding rivers.
The DFO said though his department was among non-essential departments that were not directly involved in the COVID-19 emergency services, the forest department was providing jobs to hundreds of people while ensuring safety measures such as arranging gloves and sanitizers to the workers without any extra funds from the government.
Meanwhile, a resident of Dewangol in Upper Chitral told ChitralToday that saplings under the government plan were being planted from the bridge in front of Brep to the end of Dewangol.
This will not only turn the vast riverbed into forest but would also supply water to part of the village as a canal was also being constructed from the river, he added.