GILGIT: The future seems bright for the sustainable use of natural resources in ecologically rich Gilgit-Baltistan. If the biodiversity strategy and action plan (BSAP) which was launched for the region is implemented.
“It will be a step towards the conservation of biodiversity in the region,” G-B Forests and Wildlife Secretary Sajjad Haider told The Express Tribune on Tuesday. He was referring to the plan drafted by biodiversity expert Dr Javed and presented on Monday in a meeting chaired by G-B Forests and Wildlife Minister Abdul Wakeel and attended by officials from the G-B government and ministry of climate change in Islamabad. “The plan will be approved once input from relevant departments is received and incorporated.”
Promising but not the first
The plan will be made part of a national strategy and action plan that will have representation from all provinces and regions.
This is not the first time such a plan has been introduced. The first BSAP was launched in 2000 but it could not yield the desired results, mainly due to a lack of proactive coordination between provinces and the Centre. However, the new plan has been drafted by an expert in the field who first consulted stakeholders before bringing out a pertinent plan.
In the process of planning it has been found there has previously been no mapping or assessment of ecosystems, habitats and species in G-B. Similarly, planning and resource allocation for conservation has also not been a priority so far. While the legal and policy framework is outdated, the institutional capacity is weak.
Winning with preservation
The BSAP document says rights of locals over natural resources have also been identified as an issue that needs to be addressed so people are motivated to play a positive role in conserving forests and wildlife. The plan sheds light on the opportunities in conservation: improvement in livelihood, green jobs, flourishing cottage industry and mitigation of abrupt changes in climate.
Similarly it says ecosystem services should be improved by increasing income from forest produce, improving pasture for animal production, watershed protection, insurance against extreme climatic events, income from tourism and trophy hunting.
Emphasis has been laid on the need to include biodiversity considerations in Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines. The document adds pollution affecting biodiversity should be identified and then controlled. Moreover, it calls for the formulation of a forest policy, preparation of geographic information system (GIS) and assessment (remote sensing), and the co-management of community forests, government forests. It also calls for the establishment of forest biodiversity conservation areas.
BSAP recommended revision of the fisheries act, formulation of guidelines for sustainable harvest of fish, and to establish wetland protected areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.