Skardu, 21 March 2011: WWF – Pakistan in collaboration with the SEED (Social, Economic and Environmental Development) Project and the Directorate of the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) organized a host of events to mark the International Year of Forests and World Forestry Day, in Baltistan region.
The major events included a seminar titled “Conservation and management of the CKNP Forests” organized at Skardu and launch of the plantation campaign at Keris Ganche. The former was chaired by Mr. Arqam Tariq, Deputy Commissioner, Skardu while the later by Mr. Fazl-e-Khaliq, Deputy Commissioner Ganche. Both the Deputy Commissioners urged the people of their respective districts to plant more trees for economic and environmental wellbeing in the areas.
“Our region, for being a mountainous and glaciated landscape is more vulnerable to the climate change effects, visible now a days in the form of intermittent flash floods and harsh weather conditions and forests are key to cope with these issues”, said by Mr. Arqam Tariq while speaking at the seminar in Skardu.
Mr. Fazl-e-Khalique while speaking at opening ceremony of the tree plantation at Keris, Ganche, emphasized to protect the dwindling natural forests in the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) and adjacent areas through stringent protection measures and large scale afforestation schemes. For this purpose he applauded the efforts of government and non-governmental organizations to promote social forestry in Baltistan.
“The purpose of marking the International Year of Forests in Baltistan is to bring all the key stakeholders towards a common agenda of protecting the forests and associated resources, remarked by Mr. Babar Khan, Head WWF – P Gilgit Baltistan. He informed the participants that WWF P under the SEED project is committed to plant trees on more than 300 hectares of vulnerable catchments in the buffer zone of the CKNP areas. “This large scale afforestation campaign will help reduce pressure on the scanted forest patches in the Park” he added.
Mr. Bastian Flurry, Project Director of the SEED (Social, Economic and Environmental Development) Project reiterated the commitment of the Government of Italy and Pakistan to manage the CKNP under the Pakistan-Italian Debt for Development Swap Agreement. “A strong coordination mechanism is in placed between the partners for managing the CKNP through scientific research and social development initiatives”, shared by Mr. Bastian in his message.
Mr. Abid Ali, Director CKNP revealed that the forest cover in CKNP is only 0.3 percent in Ganche, 0.5 percent in Skardu and 12 percent in Gilgit district, which, he feared, is alarming for meeting the fuelwood needs of the local communities and also to sustaining ecosystem balance. He also shared a rigorous plan of the CKNP directorate to improve the forest cover of the park, by raising plantations at communal lands in the buffer zone areas.
While speaking about the role of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in promoting social forestry in the area, Mr. Nazir Ahmad, Regional Programme Manager, AKRSP informed that the programme has helped the communities to plant about 9 million trees in Baltistan. “Even if half of these plants have been survived so far, it is a great number”, he added.
Referring to a World Bank’s 2006 report, Manager WWF Pakistan, Baltistan Region, Mr. Muhammad Zafar Khan, pointed out that the cost of deforestation in Pakistan is Rs. 2.7 billion, which is 0.04% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He emphasized the participants to be informed about the ecosystem services of the forests, which are immense in the form of catchment protection, water and climate regulation, carbon sequestration, biodiversity support, recreation and tourism, etc.
The day’s celebrations concluded in a massive plantation campaign at Keris village of District Khaplu, attended by a large number of government officials, members of civil society organisations, students, youth and local community members. The participants planted trees at a communal land to be continued by local people for more plantations and post care.
Similar events were also held at four other villages of Gilgit Baltistan in the buffer zone of CKNP, supported by the CKNP Directorate.
Muhammad Zafar Khan
Manager Baltistan Region
WWF - Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan
Tel: +92 5815 452003
Cell: +92 300 3495901