The outbreak has forced us to keep social distances, all around the world. Few countries applied strict lockdown while others opted for partial or relaxed lockdown. In either case, many people have lost their jobs. Especially the jobs related to social contacts or exposed to crowds were affected adversely. Countries having good social welfare systems have provided the relief packages enough to survive for their nationals. But few countries, with no total welfare system, or facing an economic crisis, have provided a limited relief Package, not sufficient to depend on it exclusively. There was fear of more deaths by poverty, hunger, and starvation then COVID-19.
It is a universal issue and needs to address seriously. Prime Minister of Pakistan is very much caring of his people, especially the middle and lower-middle class, who has voted him in the General elections held in 2018. PM Imran Khan was well aware of issues faced by the common man under lockdown.
Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the ‘Green Stimulus’ package as part of the government’s efforts to extend green cover in the county and to create job opportunities for the youth, particularly in the wake of coronavirus crisis. The Green Stimulus package, as part of the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project, aims to promote plantation, setting up nurseries, natural forests, and promotion of honey, fruit, and olive plantation in the country. Under the package, a ‘Green Nigehabaan’ (green protector) initiative would also be launched to provide job opportunities to 65,000 youth/daily-wage earners in the first phase, making them a part of the plantation campaign. Addressing the issues related to climate change, the prime minister said enhancing green cover of the country is among the foremost priorities of his government.
PM unveiled Pakistani Rupees Rs. 1.13tr stimulus package
The Green Stimulus Package, especially the “Green Nigehbaan” initiative will offer employment opportunities to the youth and will help in promoting the objectives of “Clean & Green Pakistan”.
The initiative will enable daily-wage workers to earn their livelihood with dignity amid the economic crisis triggered by Covid-19. The Ministry of Climate Change has formulated a well-thought plan of action for engaging the international community under the “Debt for Nature Swap” program to convert part of the country’s debt into a grant for greater plantation and environment protection activities.
Approximately, 66,291 jobless workers already provided jobs in the Plantation project after they were out of jobs due to the closure of industrial units, public transport, hotels, SMEs, tourism, mines, mineral, construction, and other sectors during the nearly two months lockdown in the country. According to the details, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, around 22,000 jobs were provided to laborers and daily wagers, 17,391 in Punjab, 3,500 in Baluchistan, 11,900 in Sindh, 3,000 in Gilgit Baltistan and 8500 in Azad Kashmir.
These laborers were given jobs in the tube and bare-rooted nurseries, forests enclosures, watering new plantations, mobilization of public for afforestation, spring plantation and protection of jungles programs. Each laborer is being paid Rs. 15,000 per month and Rs. 150,000 per year, he added. This amount may seem meager as compared to the rest of the world, but due to the low cost of life and merchandise in Pakistan, it is sufficient to survive.
By strictly following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) notified by the Government against COVID-19 to ensure the safety of laborers at workplaces besides the provision of masks and maintaining social distancing. Globally, these jobs are called “green jobs” because it reduces pressure on forest and wildlife resources, ensures economic empowerment of communities, combats climate change, and keeps the economy running during emergencies such as COVID-19 lockdown. These laborers and daily wagers were hired to quickly achieve the spring plantation target of 100 million saplings by June 30, 2020. To date, approximately 90 million saplings have been planted during the spring season, and the remaining 10 million will be sown by June with the assistance of national building departments, farmers, volunteers, students, and the general public.
The project gained appreciation from the international community as it will address the environmental issues as well as provide a livelihood to the most deserving segment of the society. Some other countries have shown keen interest in this project and may follow Pakistan’s model.