Story at a glance
- The country went into lockdown in March, putting people out of work.
- The government stepped in, hiring out-of-work laborers as part of the country’s 10 Billion Trees program.
- The program aims to plant billions of trees across the country over the next several years.
An ambitious tree-planting program kicked off by Pakistan’s government in 2018 to fight the effects of climate change is employing tens of thousands of laborers in the country who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a March lockdown ordered in the country due to COVID-19 caused many to lose their jobs, the Pakistani government began hiring laborers to plant saplings as part of its 10 Billion Trees program, according to Reuters.
The five-year project was started by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in an effort to curb rising temperatures, floods, droughts and other threats linked to climate change. The massive countrywide campaign aims to plant 10 billion trees over the next several years.
The program was initially stopped as part of social distancing orders, but last month, the prime minister allowed the project to continue, creating 63,600 jobs, Reuters reports.
“All of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families,” Abdul Rahman, a construction worker who lost his job due to COVID-19 and now works in the program, told Reuters.
“Due to coronavirus, all the cities have shut down and there is no work. Most of us daily wagers couldn’t earn a living,” Rahman said.
Rahman told the outlet he makes 500 rupees, or $3 per day planting trees, about half of what he made previously.
Much of the planting is taking place on 15,000 acres near the state capital of Islamabad, with a focus on hiring women and young unemployed daily workers. The laborers plant trees, serve as forest firefighters and set up nurseries.
While the work is taking place in isolated rural areas, laborers are required to abide by social distancing rules and have to wear masks.
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The Global Climate Risk Index put Pakistan fifth on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate in its annual report for 2020.
Pakistan is among the countries that are “recurrently affected by catastrophes [and] continuously rank among the most affected countries both in the long-term index and in the index for the respective year.”
Pakistan will begin easing its nationwide lockdown in phases, allowing various businesses to open Saturday, even as the country records a rise in new cases. The country has had more than 26,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
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