BOONI: Over 400 Nigahbaans hired to look after thousands of saplings planted under the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project (BTTAP) in Upper Chitral were waiting for their nine-month salaries when they were reportedly told to pack up and go home.
A view of newly-planted saplings in Khotan Lasht, Yarkhun.
Chitral was added to this mega project to launch afforestation drive in which hundreds of thousands saplings were added to cover up 380,000 hectares of forest restoration challenge. Many areas, mostly in Upper Chitral, were chosen under BTTAP initiative. Thousands of unemployed youths and women got employed under the estimated 500,000 green jobs created in the province. Under this project, $110 million have been spent which boosted local income market, provided jobs to unemployed youths and added to women empowerment.
Interestingly, additional $100 will be added to maintain this project up to 2020 but around 400 youth employees working in around 60 closures in Upper Chitral have not yet received their nine-month salaries and even they have been given the green signal of discontinuing their services even though under the project they have to work till June 2020.
The Green Growth Initiative in Chitral was managed by Forest and Wildlife Departments together to manage conservation purpose along afforestation initiatives in different land tracts in Upper Chitral. According to reports, around 400 conservators (Nigahbans) worked tirelessly with both departments as watchmen and conservators in more or less 60 closures have now been made jobless. Even most of them required in courts as witnesses in different cases of illegal hunting and poaching of wildlife.
According to a report, the Forest Department sent CDO for closure assessment in subdivision Mastuj region. He, according to Nigahban-cum-watchmen, without visiting hard and tough closures has given a report to close 60 closures in Upper Chitral. This will render around 400 locals unemployed.
This is also important to add, according to these youth employees, none in the province has received such a call of unemployment.
BTTA project has been funded to be maintained till June 2020. Why it happens with them in some closures in Upper Chitral is beyond understanding. Many of the employees held a gathering in Booni and other areas. It is a pity that they have not received past nine months salaries and still they are doing their jobs in their respective areas, they also added.
The employees under Green Growth Initiative said it was something unknown to them between the district officer of forest and the wildlife department may be their ill intention, has made them unemployed prematurely and without clear intimation to them from the concerned authorities in district level.
Dozens of these employees gathered in Booni and said they would move to Chitral in protest on Monday and hold a press conference to get their demand for continuing jobs and payment of nine months salaries heard by concerned authorities at the provincial level.
On April 26 this year, District Forest Officer (DFO) Shaukat Fayyaz Khattak told ChitralToday that Nigahbaans had been appointed to look after the saplings for a period of three years. After the expiry of the contracts of the Nigahbaans, the projects would be handed over to the local communities for looking after the saplings. In this regard, village-based committees would be constituted who would be looking after the trees.
He said the project would continue even after the expiry of the PTI-led KP government.
He said at present 532 Nigahbaans were looking after the saplings in the district and 18 more would be hired soon.
In reply to a question, the DFO said the dues of Nigahbaans being paid by the provincial government would be cleared by June 30 this year.
As many as 2.6 million (2600,000) saplings have been planted so far across Chitral under the KP government’s Billion Tree Tsunami
Afforestation Project, he had added.
Mr Khattak also said more saplings would be planted in the barren Khotan Lasht in the Yarkhun valley where around 80,000 had been planted last year.