National Wetlands Policy: Obtaining approval tops Climate Change Division’s agenda

Updated draft to be submitted to Council of Common Interests within first quarter of 2013-14.

Waqas Naeem July 28, 2013
According to Pakistan Wetland Programme, Pakistan has around 225 natural or man-made wetlands which cover around 10 per cent of the country’s total area, .PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Among its short-term objectives for 2013-14, the Climate Change Division’s Forestry Wing will be pressing to get the National Wetlands Policy approved.

According to documents available with The Express Tribune, a draft of the wetlands policy has been updated — as advised by the Law and Justice Division — and is ready for submission to the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Pakistan has around 225 natural or man-made wetlands which cover around 10 per cent of the country’s total area, according to the Pakistan Wetland Programme (PWP).

PWP, a project which devised a draft of the wetlands policy before it ended in 2012, was jointly funded by the Global Environment Facility and Royal Netherlands Embassy.

The wetlands are important because they sustain the livelihoods of rural communities through agriculture, grazing and fisheries, provide flood and erosion control, help maintain water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.

But land use conversion, damming of rivers, deforestation and water pollution, lack of awareness and absence of policies threaten the wetlands’ ecosystems.

The draft of the policy prepared by the PWP was ready to be presented to the Cabinet Division in 2010 but devolution of environmental issues prevented this.

Now, forestry wing officials said they are planning to submit the draft to CCI within the first quarter of 2013-14 as consultations have been completed.

That would be followed by efforts in the second quarter to get approval for the policy from the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination. Subject to approval, the last quarter of 2013-14 will be spent on coordination with provinces for the policy’s implementation, according to the documents.

The policy has seven objectives, namely addressing the primary threats against wetlands through direct action, implementing a regulatory framework for sustainable use of wetlands, greater coordination between different agencies at provincial and national levels, promoting research, building capacity for sustainable wetland management, raising awareness about wetlands conservation and securing financing mechanism for wetlands management.

A wetland is generally an area that gets saturated with water, which then becomes the controlling factor for the area’s soil development and ecology.

The World Wild Fund for Nature Pakistan, which implemented the PWP, divides Pakistan into four wildlife complexes, the Northwest Alpine wetlands — including areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan — Salt Range wetlands — including lakes from Kallar Kahar to Kalabagh — Central Indus wetlands — between Taunsa and Sukkur barrages — and Makran Coastal wetlands — from Basol River to Jiwani.

Other short-term goals also include objectives for inter-provincial timber movement and national tree plantation campaigns among other things.

According to the document, the forestry wing has stressed that “interprovincial and cross-border movement of timber has to be regulated at the federal level” despite forests being a provincial subject.

Climate Change Division officials said the Forest Act of 1927 contains provisions to regulate movement and transit of forest produce. They said a reference has been submitted on this matter to the Law and Justice Division to get an opinion.

Environmentalists have often criticised such governmental tree plantations for their ineffectiveness. In response, forestry officials said inter-ministerial, inter-provincial meetings will be held during the first quarter of 2013-14 to review the preceding season’s performance and discuss ways to improve efficiency.

The meetings will also fix monsoon 2013 targets for the federal level, according to the document.

By September, the wing also plans to conduct capacity building training of provincial authorities regarding Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus — an agreement which could fetch Pakistan financial rewards for avoiding deforestation.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2013.


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