Air pollution is continuously affecting the human health adversely. The degenerating conditions of the atmosphere due to reduction of Ozone gas layer are accelerating the level of carbon dioxide beyond acceptable limits which is highly injurious to human life and the plants. It is well established fact that air pollution can be controlled effectively by intensive afforestation. The earth conferences held in Brazil and USA during 1992 and 1997 respectively have also affirmed the need for a large scale afforestation programme throughout the World.
In 1994, Government of Pakistan (Ministry of Environment) planned excessive afforestation in order to increase forest cover in the country which was less than 6% of total area at that time. Afforestation greatly contributes towards national economy both directly and indirectly. It facilitates overall pollution control, environment protection and natural camouflage & concealment during war. In order to achieve these objectives, Pakistan Army, to assist civil government, has always been at the forefront to take active part in trees' – plantation campaigns both inside the cantonments' limits and outside.
Pakistan Army was assigned to plan and implement this project in different areas. Rachna Doab Afforestation Project commonly known as RDAP, was undertaken by Pak Army initially in Punjab. The afforestation on 34,407 Acres / Avenue Miles (AVM) is continuing since July 1995 onward. The Project was suspended in June 2011 due to devolution of sponsoring ministry to the provinces under the 18th Amendment in the Constitution. However, units / formations are determined to achieve the designated goal gradually even without the provision of Government funds. Above 80 % survival rate of planted trees has been achieved as assessed by 'Monitoring and Evaluation' (M&E) team of Federal Government comprising members from the Planning Commission,
Ministry of Environment, Punjab Forest Department and Pakistan Forest Institute Peshawar. Extracts from the M&E report prepared by Dr Raza Ul Haq (Central Silviculturist), Pakistan Forest Institute, Peshawar during April – May 2003 are:- “Some of the acquired land was under the control of illegal occupants. The recovery of these lands and its afforestation was a creditable job done by the Army.” (Page 1 of Report.)
“It is a matter of great satisfaction that the physical targets in the field are going according to schedule and in some cases advance progress of work has been observed during the visit. This is due to the sincere and devoted efforts of the team responsible for the afforestation programme deputed on the job by Mangla Corps. Acquisition of land and timely completion of physical targets is commendable job. (Page 7-8 of Report) Afforestation on 250 sites in ten civil districts of Punjab province has definitely improved the ecology of these areas to a great extent.
The eco-system has been restored on barren, arid, water-logged and saline-sodic soils handed over by government departments to the Army. The planted lands are showing topographically, edaphically, climatically and ecologically changes which are quite visible now when juvenile plants and saplings have turned into thick forests. The lands prior to plantation under RDAP had been encroached. After retrieval of illegally occupied lands, plantation with numerous species has been carried out in the most planned manner. The main planted species are Shisham, Eucalyptus, Kikar, Siris, Bakain, Jaman, Willow, Sukh Chain, Ipple Ipple etc. Bed / potted nurseries containing thousands of plants were raised by the respective formations in afforestation areas as well as in respective cantonments for meeting the requirements of fresh plantation / re-stocking.
The officers and men affiliated with the project have worked day and night to make it a success story. Till now, 17 soldiers have laid their lives during the execution of this gigantic project. RDAP besides, increasing the percentage of jungles in the country, will go a long way in improving the environment of the areas.
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