Aug. 13 (UPI) -- A plan to plant 1 billion trees in Pakistan to help offset deforestation was achieved this month, Pakistani provincial leader Imran Khan said.
Khan, a former cricket star, began the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project in 2015 to reverse the trend of heavy deforestation in the region. The initiative's goal was to hit the 1 billion tree mark by the end of 2017, and organizers met it nearly five months ahead of schedule.
"If you plant trees, we have discovered, by the river banks it sustains the rivers. But most importantly, the glaciers that are melting in the mountains, and one of the biggest reasons is because there has been a massive deforestation. So, this billion tree is very significant for our future," Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, told Voice of America.
The trees were planted in Pakistan's northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Inger Anderson, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, praised the Billion Tree Tsunami organizers for making efforts to reverse deforestation in Pakistan.
"IUCN congratulates the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on reaching this momentous milestone," Anderson said. "The Billion Tree Tsunami initiative is a true conservation success story, one that further demonstrates Pakistan's leadership role in the international restoration effort and continued commitment to the Bonn Challenge."
The Bonn Challenge is an effort to restore 350 hectares of deforested land by 2030. The Pakistani effort currently accounts for 350,000 restores hectares of land.
Since 1990, the planet has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forests, according to World Bank data. The regions that have seen the heaviest losses are Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, nearly 1 million square kilometers of forest was destroyed between 1990 and 2015.