Unchecked deforestation and hunting at the Central Karakoram National Park has threatened the biodiversity of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), experts said on Tuesday.
The park which is spread over 10,000 square kilometres in five districts of G-B is a natural habitat for over 10 species of wild animals and 12 rare species of birds. Some of the endangered species include marmot, snow leopard, markhor, ibex, blue sheep, brown bear, musk deer, Tibetan wild ass, and wolf. However, due to the absence of official records, the status of these species is not known.
“The huge park needs to be managed properly,” Muhammad Zafar Khan, a senior official at the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Gilgit office, told media. He added that the lack of alternative livelihood opportunities for communities and uncontrolled mining in mountains are some of the issues that require attention. “Most of the local communities are unaware of the ecological importance of these species, which play a key role in keeping the ecological balance of the universe intact,” he said.
Khan suggested the use of biogas as an alternative to reduce dependency on forests. He said that one family having four cattle can meet an annual requirement of cooking through biogas produced by animal waste.
“But there are some areas where local communities take part in active conservation of wildlife, earning revenue from trophy hunting, which is legal,” he said.
He said the park hosts about 60 peaks above 7,000-metre-high, including 8,611-metre-high K2, which is the second highest peak in the world. Moreover, he said with a population of nearly 10 million in 230 villages, the park gets polluted by the tons of garbage thrown by tourists every year.
According to statistics, the park is annually thronged by about 4,000 visitors including trekkers, mountaineers, porters and visitors. Khan added that about 30,000 people associated with the mining sector are carrying out activities inside the park territory, adding that the act may result in the loss of habitat for various species. Besides governments, WWF and some small non-government organisations are working to manage the park.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.
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