Community development key to mountains biodiversity conservation

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ISLAMABAD, DEC 14 (DNA) – The conservation of mountain resources and biodiversity conservation is the responsibility of every citizen either living in the mountains or downstream. Community empowerment to protect and conserve the mountain biodiversity resources and use them more wisely is the key solution to fast degrading mountain ecosystems.

Pakistan Mountain Festival Founder and Director Munir Ahmed made these remarks while addressing the interactive seminar organized by the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation, Mivida Pakistan and Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) for youth and mountain communities in connection with 10th Pakistan Mountain Festival on Monday.

Munir Ahmed said mountain communities should have strong networking with the citizens’ organizations and environmentalists downstream to become a strong voice against the cartels of timber and land mafia. The mountain biodiversity conservation and protection is the responsibility of local communities because their life and livelihood depend on these resources. He also urged the federal and provincial governments to take stern action against the land and timber mafia causing irreparable loss to the mountain biodiversity.

The communities shall refrain from changing the land-use of their real estate assets rather develop them environmental friendly abode for homestay of visiting tourists. The government shall also take action against the changed land-use that is mostly in violation of the respective legislation and international treaties and conventions.

We need to protect our mountain communities and the population downstream from disasters originating from the mountains, decrease the Glaciers Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), land-sliding and promote eco-tourism, he said.

Mivida Pakistan Director Eco-conservation initiatives Safwan Shahab said community youth should be empowered to take the mountain conservation responsibility by putting small but significant local initiatives. We need to educate mountain communities and engage in conservation efforts to decrease the mountain’s biodiversity loss that is causing disasters and increasing local impact of climate change.

Young environmentalist and junior ambassador Pakistan Wildlife Foundation Minahil suggested the youth to develop social media platforms to highlight the mountain treasures and challenges confronting the local communities.

Islamabad Devcom Centennial Leo Club founder Shaaref Munir urged the citizens to reduce carbon footprint by reducing consumption of goods and resources, and Greenhouse Gas emissions.

A young environmentalist Saima Khan asked the women to adopt the conservation practices by reducing domestic consumption of daily consumables. To stop migration of mountain communities, she urged the government to provide local youth and women with skills to package and market the local horticultural, agricultural products, and handicrafts.

Development Communications Network (Devcom Pakistan) and DTN in connection with 10th Pakistan Mountain Festival organized a national webinar the other day. The panel of experts included Senior Scientific Advisor Ev-K2-CNR Ashiq Ahmed Khan, FAO Pakistan Deputy Country Representative Farrukh Toirov, World Bank Senior Technical Advisor on tourism Kiran Afzal, Water and Climate Change Expert Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, WWF Pakistan Senior Director Biodiversity Rab Nawaz, AKRSP former General Manager Muzaffaruddin, SDPI Director Environment Dr. Imran S. Khalid, and Executive Director Devcom-Pakistan Munir Ahmed.

FAO Pakistan Deputy Country Representative Farrukh Toirov said about 60 per cent of Pakistan is mountainous, and 50 percent of what are the biodiversity hotspots and 30 percent key biodiversity areas. Mountains cover 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, provide 60-80 percent of the freshwater 60-80%, hydro and wind energy, and food.

Mr Toirov suggested six pointed action agenda to combat the challenges confronting the mountains biodiversity including increased investment in research and sound data collection, enhanced local capacities to reduce biodiversity loss, to inform policy makers to promote, inform policy makers to promote conservation actions and increase the resilience of mountain communities, engage and advocate with conventions, networks and movements, support sustainable agriculture in mountains to reverse agro-biodiversity loss, and promote indigenous knowledge and its role in maintaining mountain biodiversity, agro-ecosystems and improving food security.

World Bank Group Senior Private Sector Specialist on Tourism Kiran Afzal said the World Bank projects are promoting responsible tourism by engaging communities and the corporate sector to reduce and recycle solid waste. Private sector needs to be sensitized to take up conservation approaches.

Senior Scientific Advisor Ev-K2-CNR Ashiq Ahmed Khan urged the government to have national mountains biodiversity to fill up the serious gaps for biodiversity conservation including research, data, indigenous knowledge and cultural practices. Mountaineers have dumped tons of waste in the base-camps and on the routes to the mountain tops. We need to have mechanisms to handle it too. He suggested having biospheres instead of National Parks.

Water and Climate Change expert Ali Tauqeer Sheikh said rapidly increasing population and absence of resource management is the big challenge for the entire country. Loss of mountain biodiversity is causing scarcity of water resources even in the hubs of glaciers. Excessive use of fertilizers and GMO seeds also harming the fragile ecosystems of mountains.

WWF Pakistan Senior Director Biodiversity Rab Nawaz suggested to have a centre of excellence in mountain research, and to have qualified experts in mountains biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. We don’t have an integrated master plan to use the mountain resources.=DNA

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