Posted on 16 December 2021
Islamabad, 16 December 2021: WWF-Pakistan, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Tourism Department Gilgit-Baltistan, jointly organized an event, utilizing local films and panel discussions to highlight the biodiversity of the Hindu-Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan region and the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities.
Titled ‘Voices from the Mountains: Sustainable Tourism in the Hindu-Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan Region’, the event was organized as a follow up to the ‘Bam-e-Dunya Film Festival’, held in Gilgit between 10 and 11 December 2021 to mark International Mountain Day. Winning films from the documentary, fiction, experimental, special jury mention, amateur and women in film categories were screened at the event, which was attended by representatives of non-profit, development organizations, academia, local filmmakers and students. Filmmakers spoke about harnessing the power of the media to raise awareness about mountain culture, climate change and justice, the impacts on the lives of local communities, etc.
Speaking at the occasion, Sahibzada Irfanullah of the UNDP stated that our mountains are rich in flora and fauna of national and international significance, with diverse landscapes ranging from mountain peaks to plateaus and glaciers. However, environmental degradation and climate change is a real threat to these ecosystems.
Elaborating on ICIMOD’s role in sustainable mountain tourism, Muhammad Ismail, Country Representative for Pakistan, ICIMOD, said that glaciers are melting at a faster rate, giving rise to GLOFs, erosion and in turn, biodiversity loss. “Recognizing that tourism presents both opportunities and challenges, we have been prioritizing sustainable mountain development; analyzing risks of GLOFs, climate change adaptation, sustainable forest management and the conservation of snow leopards in the region”.
The screenings were followed by a panel discussion with experts from ICIMOD, WWF-Pakistan, the US Embassy of Islamabad, and Laajverd. The experts stressed on public engagement in developing policies around sustainable tourism, enhancing the capacity of local communities, sustainable mountain architecture, and the need for transboundary collaboration for sustainable tourism.
Haider Raza, Regional Head Gilgit-Baltistan, WWF-Pakistan stated that “Tourism has significantly increased in the GB region, which is a fragile area. We don’t have the infrastructure and associated systems to support that, such as appropriate liquid and solid waste collection and disposal. So, it is imperative that we develop and enforce guidelines and SOPs to protect fragile mountain ecosystems and ensure that the finances being generated from tourism are benefiting the local community and economy.”
During the closing remarks, Raja Rasheed Ali, Secretary Tourism, Gilgit-Baltistan, spoke about some of the government’s initiatives and said “We are focusing on improving the livelihoods of the people, making the land cultivable and are using technology to streamline tourism by dividing and diversifying the concentration of tourists in certain areas”.