Ministers object to additional funds for billion tree project
PESHAWAR: The future of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Billion Tree Tsunami flagship project is at stake in the province as the provincial cabinet divided on approval of additional funds for the project.
Sources told this scribe that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan deferred the matter regarding approval of the additional fund worth Rs1,840 million from the cabinet meeting held on Sunday after some ministers raised serious reservations.
The sources said that some of the ministers also raised objection to use of funds in the project without prior approval from the forum concerned.
When contacted, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed that the cabinet did not give approval of additional funds for the Billion Tree Tsunami project.
The minister said that provincial minister Atif Khan raised this point in the cabinet meeting that approval of additional funds for Billion Tree Tsunami project in the head of 10 Billion Tree project, which was started without prior approval, was a wrong decision. The sources said that the other ministers, including senior minister Shahram Tarakai, also seconded Atif Khan.
However, he said, the Forest Department explained before the cabinet that the department had to start 10 Billion Tree project due to spring season without the cabinet approval and nurseries had already been established under this project and the department had to pay Rs1,849 million as expenditure.
The sources said that the KP government cabinet meeting was held in Peshawar on Sunday with the Chief Minister in the chair. The meeting was called on a five-point agenda, including two items from Finance Department and one each item from Administration, Energy and Power and Forest Department. In the meeting, the sources said, the Forest Department presented the Billion Tree Tsunami reviewed item through which the department was seeking an approval of Rs1.84 billion as additional funds spent on 10 Billion Tree project, which created reservations among the ministers and raised serious objections to approval of the additional fund. The ministers also raised an issue of deforestation and stated that illegal cutting of trees was going on in the forests on a mass level. This scribe also tried to contact provincial minister Atif Khan on his phone but the minister did not attend.
It is pertinent to mention that the opposition parties in the KP Assembly had also raised serious objections to corruption and irregularities in the Billion Tree Tsunami project, for which a parliamentary committee had also been constituted. Besides, the KP NAB had also started investigation into the project.
When Special Secretary of Forest Department Zareeful Mani was contacted, he also confirmed that the cabinet did not approve additional funds for Billion Tree Tsunami project. However, he explained that the present trees plantation drive had started in the spring season continued under the Prime Minister Ten Billion Tree project as the season was good for tree plantation. He said that the department had so far made it part of the Billion Tree Tsunami and thus presented summary for approval of the additional funds spent on the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami project as no proper approval had been given for the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami.
He said that the prime minister had launched the tree plantation drive under the 10 Billion Tsunami Tree project at various districts of the province and the department needs additional funds to pay for plants, labour and employees salaries. Under this project, he said, both the federal and provincial government had to bear 50-50 percent of the total expenditure of the project. He hoped that the provincial cabinet would approve funds for the project.