Accepting the challenge of stewardship of the earth’s resources today to bequeath a more livable future for our next generations is the primary motivation behind the concept of “Green Growth”. The concept is designed to revisit, revise, rethink and improve the clearly unsustainable growth model that the world is currently following and start thinking on alternate pathways to development. Over the past few years, many countries have been trying to cope with this challenge by firstly defining what “green” actually means and secondly endeavoring to translate it into practical action on the ground. Within this context, a lack of strong and unflinching political commitment has been often cited as one of the most difficult barriers to implementation.
Not many political parties have, however, risen to meet this challenge.
The “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf” decided to do so by not only clearly defining, but also politically conceptualizing the notion of a green economy in Pakistan. This was based upon a philosophical premise that for the successful implementation of any “green” agenda it has to be politically owned and passionately driven. For this, it needs to be championed by a leading political party that can define, own and politically mainstream this concept. Once this is done, political-will could be transformed into the most effective driver of green growth rather than being an impediment to it. This has been the fundamental philosophy behind the unique political experiment currently underway in KPK province.
The first steps along this roadmap started before the elections of 2013. After extensive consultations and expert input a “Green Growth Vision” was unveiled by the party and laid out a three-step strategy for the “greening” of growth in Pakistan:
Subsequently, after the elections it was imperative for PTI to plan and deliver this promised “green” vision in KPK – the province where it formed the Government.
Unimplemented manifestos and hollow sloganeering have been the, unfortunate, hallmarks of Pakistan politics. Being a party advocating reform and change, PTI had to endeavor to shift this perception. The “Green Growth Initiative” (GGI), launched and currently underway, in the province of KPK has been a step in that direction.
While gearing up for implementation of PTI’s promised “green vision”, it had to be firstly tailored to meet the economic needs, social demands and political aspirations in KPK. Secondly, parallel to this, an effective institutional mechanism had to be put in place to oversee delivery. The PTI coalition Government met both challenges by setting up a two-layered institutional structure consisting of an Inter-Ministerial committee on Green Growth technically supported by an Expert Task Force on Green Growth. The important factor being that the Chief Minister chairs the ICGG, a clear signal of strong political commitment, while the Expert task force was challenged to tailor the vision for KPK within a short and restricted time frame, which it successfully achieved in 2014.
Thus, driven by strong political commitment and supported by a delivery based institutionalized structure, the six focal sectors were outlined including the Forestry, Protected Area/National Parks, Clean Energy, Climate Resilience, Water/Sanitation and Waste Management sectors. Furthermore, after expert deliberations and stakeholders’ input, the 5-year targets for the first four priority sectors were announced during the GGI launch in 2014. These quantifiable and measurable targets were designed to drive the implementation process and as they say in cricket – “keep the eye on the ball”.
The litmus test for any political policy or strategy, however, lies in translating it into projects on the ground and allocating them a share out of the budgetary pie. This important step was diligently followed last year and culminated in flagship projects – the “Billion Tree Tsunami”, the “KPK National Parks” project and the “365 community micro-hydel” project. These projects were clearly defining new frontiers while carving out sustainable options for growth and, thus, had to go through a detailed consultation and development process. This went on in 2014 and yielded the all-powerful PC1’s for the project, which have now been allocated sizable Government funds in the ADP of 2014-15 to kickstart the initiative.
The Billion-Tree Tsunami: The province of KPK houses 40% of Pakistan’s dwindling forests and is also the storehouse of its natural biodiversity. It was, thus logical, for forestry and national parks to be a primary focal area for the GGI.
Within the forestry sector, through a number of revolutionary measures, the KPK Government has committed to not only reverse the high rate of deforestation but also shift the current philosophy from treating forests as a “revenue” machine towards preserving them as a valued “natural capital”.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the forest area in KPK is targeted for a major enhancement from 20% to 22% by 2018, which would entail converting, at least, 30000 hectares of additional forests through massive afforestation drive. In addition, through enrichment measures the tree cover in existing forests would be increased from 20% to 30% by 2018. This would entail protection and gap plantations in, at least, 27000 hectares each year. The above ambitious targets would be achieved through the massive 4-year “Billion Tree Tsunami” project, which is now underway.
The project has been designed to include various new facets such as:
The above project concept has been preliminarily accepted for inclusion under the global “Bonn Targets” – a regime where voluntary forestry targets are recognized. Once officially recognized, KPK will be the first sub-national entity in the world to get this honor of recognition.
National Parks and Wildlife Protection: Being the custodian of a major portion of Pakistan’s natural biodiversity, the KPK Government has also committed to not only expanding the Protected Areas/National Parks in KPK but also ensuring their professional and proper management and preservation by integrating this with ecotourism.
To oversee and manage this transformation, the GGI has announced:
KPK will endeavor to ensure that the area under protected areas goes from 11% to 15% of its area by 2018. This would surpass the MDG commitment made by Pakistan. All of these steps should generate green job while raising awareness and sensitizing the public to KPK’s unique natural heritage.
KPK is also aiming to achieve global linkage for this initiative by enlisting it under the recently formulated “Asian National Parks Authority”. The work for doing so has already started and would again give KPK a global recognition for a locally implemented environmental initiative.
Combating Climate Change: Climate change remains a pressing challenge for the KPK province, which, owing to its geography and topography, is the province in Pakistan most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The repeated ravaging floods in the past few years have been a stark reminder of the devastation and infrastructure loss this vulnerability can cost. Thus, the GGI logically targets enhancing the climate resilience of the province through vulnerability mapping and climate proofing of its infrastructure. Climate adaptation concerns will be integrated into the planning process through the EIA and PC1 preparation stages.
Targeting “Zero Carbon” Growth: The fourth important sector of the GGI is also linked with the climate responsibility that KPK is undertaking by voluntarily committing to “Zero Carbon” growth. This would encompass the efforts for promotion of clean energy and carbon sequestration.
The “Green Growth” initiative of KPK is now firmly on its feet after an extensive planning and development phase. This revolutionary initiative aims to be a flag bearer of a green revolution in Pakistan and to ensure a better quality of life to the citizens of KPK, creation of decent and clean job opportunities for the youth and become a means for social uplift and poverty eradication in the province.
The politics of change demands shifting from sloganeering towards delivery. Hopefully the successful implementation of the GGI by PTI will not only establish the notion of political ownership being a pre-requisite for catalyzing green growth in Pakistan, and the world, but also create a paradigm shift in KPK’s growth trajectory – leading to prosperity, poverty reduction and a better quality of life for the people while fulfilling the imperatives for a cleaner environment.
PTI’s green drive, embodied by the initiative in KPK, remains an evolving strategy that will continue to improve through a feedback process. It is, however, the first initiative by any mainstream political party of Pakistan (and maybe the developing world) to not only clearly articulate a “green” development agenda but also extend it full political ownership. The party remains hopeful that this politically palatable and homegrown green program will not only provide the strong impetus required for an environmentally sustainable future for Pakistan but also become a trailblazer for other developing countries searching for a pathway towards a green economy.