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International Year of Forests and World Forestry Day marked in Baltistan

A speaker addresses the seminar held in Skardu

PT Report

Skardu, March 21: WWF – Pakistan, SEED (Social, Economic and Environmental Development) Project and the Directorate of the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) joined hands to mark the International Year of Forestry and World Forest Day in Skardu, Baltistan.

In this connection, a seminar was held in Skardu under the title “Conservation and management of the CKNP Forests”. A plantation drive in Ghanche followed he seminar.

“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”, remarked Arqam Tariq, DC Skardu, while addressing the seminar. DC Ghanche, Fazl-e-Khaliq, also spoke at the seminar and urged the people to plant trees for economic and environmental wellbeing of the region.

Mr. Fazl-e-Khalique also inaugurated the plantation drive at Keris, a flood hit village of Ghanche District.

Explaining objectives of activities, Head of WWF Gilgit – Baltistan, Babar Khan, said that 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”. He informed 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

Plantation in progress at Keris, Ghanche

campaign will help reduce pressure on the scanted forest patches in the Park” he added.

Bastian Flurry, SEED Project Director, reiterated 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.

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.

Referring to a 2006 World Bank report, Manager WWF Pakistan for Baltistan Region, 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.

Large number of trees were planted by government officials, civil society organization members,youth, students and local people, at Keris village of District Ghanche. Similar events were also held at four other villages of Gilgit Baltistan in the buffer zone of CKNP, supported by the CKNP Directorate.

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