Melting glaciers are giving way to farmlands further reducing snow leopard habitats due to human incursion, said Ministry of Climate Change Inspector General of Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir.
He was speaking at the recently held inception workshop of US-based Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funded snow leopard project, ‘Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme’ (PSLEP) in the capital.
The event was jointly organised by Ministry of Climate Change, UNDP-Pakistan and Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF).
In his address, Nasir emphasised on the conservation of snow leopards as the snow leopard is a symbol of a healthy ecosystem. He further said that.
Inspector general forests also shared his views about nomads and their movement in winters. Nomads’ movement by foot causes damage to pastures and to stop this practice, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa wildlife department does not allow them to move by foot and force them to move in trucks. He appreciated initiatives by Snow Leopard Foundation and other organisations of livestock vaccination and livestock insurance schemes to support the community.
Speaking at the event UNDP Country Director Ignacio Artaza emphasised on the wildlife conservation for snow leopard and brown bear which is crucial for ecosystem. Pakistan is home to many unique wildlife species he stated. UNDP and GEF support a snow leopard habitat and ecosystem protection plan. “We need to develop monitoring mechanism for snow leopard habitats. Best practices in wildlife conservation promote innovations and positive impact. We are glad to be part of this project to save this unique and beautiful wildlife species, the PSLEP is a five years project and certainly will enhance the capacity and sustainability in project areas,” said the UNDP country director.
Snow Leopard Foundation Director Dr Muhammad Ali Nawaz shared the project background, objectives, result framework and implementation plan with the participants.
The prime objectives of the project are to promote landscape approach for survival of snow leopard and its prey species by reducing threats and applying sustainable land and forest management in critical habitats in northern Pakistan. Dr Ali also briefed the participants about the key challenges and barriers this project intends to address, these include inadequate capacity, knowledge and proven models for conserving snow leopard and wildlife species at a landscape level; inadequate representation and protection of important habitats, including forests, in existing protected area network; in sufficient economic incentives and alternatives to current practices of unsustainable land and forest use by local communities; and lack of awareness and skills necessary for wildlife monitoring, wildlife crime prevention and detection and effective conservation decision-making.
The annual work plan for 2018 was presented by Snow Leopard Foundation Assistant Director Jaffaruddin UNDP – Pakistan Environment and Climate Change Unit Programme Officer Usman Manzoor shared the project monitoring and evaluation concepts and mechanism. He also highlighted the project risk management and the guidelines to tackles those risks.
Ashiq Ahmad Khan predicted success of PSLEP project based on the fact that this is the first project on landscape level whereas the projects in past were restricted to small areas, and key stakeholders appear to be highly motivated.
The event presented a large gathering of officials from government and non-government organisations, corporate sector and educational institutions. Senior officials from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan appreciated the initiative and assured full support in implementation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2018.