Twenty years on: Pakistan’s largest national park still devoid of management plan

Approval of Central Karakoram National Park document stalled by bureaucracy’s incompetency.

Waqas Naeem June 30, 2013
CKNP is home to 60 mountain peaks over 7,000 metres and some of the world’s largest glaciers. PHOTO: FILE


The largest national park in Pakistan has been without a management plan ever since it was established 20 years ago.

Several attempts were made in the past to create a working document for the management of the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), but the efforts came to naught either due to a lack of accurate park information or bureaucratic red-tape.

The latest attempt to formulate a management plan, under the Social Economic Environmental Development (SEED) project, has resulted in a draft that was presented to the G-B government in March. The plan did not receive the government’s provisional approval.

Three months on, the draft is still sitting with government’s tourism and mining departments, who were meant to have offered suggestions on the plan. The SEED project’s stakeholders are optimistic that the plan will come through, but some CKNP Directorate officials are apprehensive that the process could see more delays in the short-term.

“The bureaucracy’s incompetence has caused a holdup in the approval process,” said a CKNP official requesting anonymity.

The plan is supposed to have rules and regulations that cover almost every sector of the park and its buffer zones. It will include the use of natural resources, forestry, pastures, tourism, waste management and mining among other things, said CKNP Director Raja Abid Ali.

“It will be a comprehensive document with basic guidelines for all park activities,” he said.

The CKNP covers an estimated area of 10,000 square kilometers. It is home to 60 mountain peaks over 7,000 metres and some of the world’s largest glaciers. Without a management plan, however, even the park’s boundary and total area is suspect.

In 1993, when the G-B government notified the park, it only provided four coordinates to determine the park’s boundary. The International Union for Conservation of Nature helped develop a plan and boundary in 1994 but it was not approved. Since then, at least three attempts made by different organisations have met the same fate.

“At times, we tend to blame the government for the delay,” said SEED Project Director Raffaele Del Cima. “The earlier efforts to develop a management plan were lacking in real, specific information about the park.”

Del Cima, who is also the Country Operations Manager at EvK2CNR, commented on the difficulty in attaining information on the park because of how much area it covered.

EvK2CNR, an Italy-based international organisation, is SEED project’s implementing organisation in collaboration with the Karakorum International University. The Rs1.02 billion project, which is funded by the Italian and Pakistani governments according to a Pak-Italian debt for development swap agreement, aims to support the CKNP management and improve the livelihood of communities living near the park.

The management plan is a “must” for the SEED project, Del Cima said, because its approval would provide enforceable guidelines that are needed for the project’s other interventions, including sustainable development for local communities, eco-tourism and standardised environmental research, to succeed.

He said the plan’s latest version would be presented to the authorities in September after incorporating any suggested changes from the G-B government.

“At this stage, none of the parties involved are envisaging the enforcement of a ‘plan B’,” he said. “We have another 1.5 years till the end of the SEED project and work on the management plan is at a very advanced stage.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.


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