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Improving Sub-Watershed Management and Environmental Awareness in Ayubia National Park

Ayubia National Park (ANP) covers an area of approximately 3,312 hectares and is located within the Western Himalayan G200 Ecoregion. The G200 ecoregions are globally significant biodiversity areas selected by WWF. Previously, untenable land management practices in Ayubia had led to deforestation, water shortage and flash floods in the region.

WWF-Pakistan launched a project which improved sub-watershed management and helped raise environmental awareness in and around Ayubia National Park in January 2009 and completed nine phases of the project in December 2018. During these ten years, the project mobilized stakeholders, organized them and their activities to establish effective roles by creating platforms like VOs, WOs, GDCO, nature clubs and eco-guards. The project engaged with educational institutes, tourists and provincial line departments for practical participation in solid waste management initiatives to maintain cleanliness in Ayubia National Park and its vicinity. During this time, meetings, gatherings, workshops, trainings, celebration of environment-related occasions, competitions and campaigns were conducted.

The project introduced improved agricultural practices, irrigation systems and alternative income generation options for the locals with special emphasis on women. The project demonstrated activities to protect eroding streams, sliding slopes, forests and rangelands. To ensure steps for the conservation of natural forests, the project distributed Fuel-Efficient Stoves (FES), solar geysers and filtration plants for drinking water and established rooftop rain water harvesting facilities.

Women were trained in planting forest and fruit plants, stitching, sewing and kitchen gardening. Apart from regular monitoring, research was conducted for generating and accumulating data on watershed management activities. This was done by encouraging and supporting graduate and post-graduate students to work on their research topics as part of their academic pre-requisite for university degrees.

Moreover, all plans were prepared and actions were taken to protect the endangered biodiversity of the area in general and Ayubia National Park in particular. Other achievements included the provision of a replacement for “Barmi” timber (Taxus wallichiana) and the adoption and practice of safety measures against common leopard attacks. During the project, plantation of native tree species was carried out on 148 hectares and 100 hectares were protected from overgrazing to encourage natural regeneration. To ensure the availability of clean drinking water for the local inhabitants, 88 water filtration units were provided to schools and public places along with the protection of 45 natural springs through the construction of storage tanks. Moreover, to reduce tree felling and deforestation, 93 solar water heaters, 536 Fuel Efficient Stoves (FES) and 25 LPG – tandoors were also distributed.

In addition to that, 10 vocational centres were established and more than 200 women were trained in vocational skills, 360 improved poultry units were provided and 25 locals were trained as eco-tourist guides. The activities undertaken by the project were evaluated to ascertain impacts on the environment. The livelihoods of dwellers were also measured to gauge the impact of the watershed management activities. Research revealed that 1,207 million litres of water was replenished while reducing 11,500-metre cube of sediment yield.