Pakistan is on its way to planting 10 billion trees.

Pakistan is embarking on an ambitious plan: to plant 10 billion trees across the country by 2023, in order to restore landscapes while providing much-needed employment. Popularly known as the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, this project entails both planting and naturally regenerating forests, and might possibly serve as a pilot for other countries to use nature restoration goals to reduce national debt owed to foreign creditors.

The forestation drive was well underway as Pakistan hosted this year’s World Environment Day on 5 June, which also kicked off the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Malik Amin Aslam, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Climate Change, said in a GLF Live interview that the first billion trees have already been grown under the initiative.

“Our government really feels that this is something we have to do for this generation and the next generation and the ones who come after that,” he said. “We took this option of planting trees because we believe in not fighting nature, but in making nature an ally to solve the issues that we have with nature.”

The 10 Billion Tree Tsunami began in 2018 and rides off the momentum of the previous Billion Tree Tsunami – the forest restoration campaign launched in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2014 under the administration of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by the current prime minister Imran Khan. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) audit, this earlier project was a success: 872.3 million seedlings were planted, with an average survival rate of almost 89 percent. It finished ahead of schedule and grew the province’s forests by 350,000 hectares, surpassing its commitment to the Bonn Challenge.

The ecological problems facing Pakistan are daunting. Pakistan, which has been rated as the world’s fifth country most affected by extreme weather from 1999 to 2018, is likely to see more erratic rainfall, the melting of Himalayan glaciers and greater heat. Although it has contributed relatively little to overall global carbon emissions, the world’s fifth most populous country is expected to be heavily affected by climate change and might face greater food and water insecurity, especially as agriculture employs roughly half the population and generates 24 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.