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May 24, 2020

Empowering local communities can help conserve wildlife: experts


May 24, 2020

Local communities can play an important role in the conservation of wildlife in various areas of Pakistan if they get benefits from conservation activities, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pakistan experts said on Saturday, adding that the trophy hunting programme was the best example in this regard that has benefited local communities monetarily to the tune of $7 million so far.

They were speaking at an international webinar, organised by the IUCN-Pakistan on the occasion of International Day for Biological Diversity, IUCN Pakistan, to commemorate the day and highlight the importance of biodiversity and the nature- based solutions. The theme of the day this year was: “Our solutions are in nature”.

Malik Amin Aslam, adviser to the prime minister on climate change, talked of the Green Stimulus initiative of the government, saying that it was based on two things: one was nature’s protection and the other was to provide jobs to the jobless in the wake of COVID-19.

He said that the situation had compelled the people to migrate from urban to rural areas. He said that the programme had employed 65,000 people in Pakistan. There are two more phases of the programme and it was estimated that by the end of the third phase. we will have 600,000 people employed.”

Aslam further said: “We have a 10-billion-tree plantation programme with ownership by all provinces, the second part is the national parks and protected areas. These are not properly managed which we will focus on and will be announcing seven national parks in June 2020. The Government of Pakistan has started collaborating with US National Parks. The third area is proper management plans that will be implemented in these parks.”

There will also be initiatives on urban waste management and liquid and solid waste managements as post COVID-19 recovery with financing through the Ecosystem Restoration Fund created and announced at the UN Climate Change Conference during 2019.

The federal environment adviser said: “Today’s theme is based on nature-based solutions and Pakistan’s focus is nature-based solutions and the future lies in solutions to nature. The nature-based solutions approach is an idea that has had genesis in IUCN.

“We know that the cause of this plague lies in nature and there is a cost to pay if we invade nature and there are benefits if we invest in nature. The COVID-19 crisis has taught us a new pathway to growth and economic development.”

In her remarks, Aban Marker Kabraji, regional director of the IUCN Asia and director of the Regional Hub for Asia-Oceania, said nature based-solutions had been the IUCN’s concept that was developed many years go and its understanding, analysis and its application were constantly evolving.

She further explained that given the current pandemic, the IUCN continued to be safe and continued to think of the linkages we had with nature, and how nature-based solutions could serve as a way forward for us all.

Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, country representative of the IUCN Pakistan, welcomed Malik Amin Aslam, Aban Marker Kabraji, Raphaël Glémet, senior programme officer of water and wetlands, IUCN Asia Regional Office, representatives of the French Embassy, representatives of the Canadian Embassy, European Union Delegation, and DFID in Pakistan, Roomi S. Hayat, chair, IUCN Pakistan National Committee, and a large number of representatives of NGOs and civil society organizations, to the webinar.

He thanked the participants and recounted the IUCN’s works towards the conservation of nature and natural resources. He said the IUCN had been instrumental in putting together strategies, action plans for the federal and provincial and district governments. The IUCN’s works span from coasts to mountains in partnership with the government and NGOs.

Cheema mentioned the Trophy Hunting Programme as an example initiative that has benefited local communities monetarily to the tune of $7 million. The local communities also take keen interest in the conservation of wildlife species if they get benefits from conservation activities.

The IUCN has coastal areas’ experience from 12 countries and carried out numerous projects and programmes towards conservation of reforestation of mangroves, green turtle conservation, illegal trade of turtles, ecotourism etc.

The IUCN representative felt the need to manage inland and marine protected areas in the country. He said that the government had an established regime at the federal and provincial levels, but there was an opportunity to go for partnership developed with provinces and local communities so as to give charge to the communities who dwelt in and around these protected areas and were the real beneficiaries.

Raphaël Glémet made a detailed presentation on nature-based solutions for societal challenges for delivering on SDGs.

Defining the concept of eco-system, he said that ecosystem services provided benefit to people’s well-being. The ecosystems also protect us from storms. Provisioning it provides water, food, agriculture, and fuel. The biosphere underpins economic and social well-being.

He said that four SDGs are linked to ecosystems, i.e. food security, water security and poverty.

He quoted tge example of the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It is estimated that the restoration will create approximately $84 billion per year in net benefits that could bring direct additional income opportunities for rural communities.

The regional IUCN expert also quoted the example that “Pakistan has achieved its restoration target through a combination of protected natural regeneration (60 per cent) and planned afforestation (40 per cent). In addition, it has established 13,000 private tree nurseries, which have already boosted local incomes, generated thousands of green jobs, and empowered unemployed youth and women in the province.”

He said that challenges of climate change, food security, water security, human health, socio-economic development, disaster risk reduction, and ecosystem degradation & biodiversity loss can be addressed through nature-based solutions. Deforestation drives wild animals out of their natural habits and closer to human populations, creating greater opportunities for viruses like COVID-19 to spread.