PM Khan announces two national parks, a nature corridor

By Staff Reporter
Thursday – December 3, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The prime minister (PM) Imran Khan announced two new high altitude national parks in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Wednesday, spanning an area of 3,600 square (Sq) kilometres (kms) which totals five percent of GB land area.

According to a press release, the newly notified “Himalaya National Park” and the “Nanga Parbat National Park” comprise unique ecological areas with very rich high altitude biodiversity as well as precious flora and fauna including the snow leopards, Himalayan brown bears, the Ladakh urial, ibexes, markhors and blue sheep.

The two national parks were announced under the PM’s protected areas initiative (PAI) which aims to ensure the protection and preservation of Pakistan’s natural assets through designation and management as national parks.

Previously the national parks countrywide numbered 30 in 2018, which although were announced over 70 years ago but remained merely on paper. Now under the incumbent initiative, in just 8 months, the number of national parks in all provinces is being increased from 45 to 50 percent — where proper community based management regimes will be put in place in all of them.

In this regard, the PM approved the formation of GB’s first national parks service (NPS) which he said will provide 5,000 green jobs to the youth in the province.

PM Khan said that the parks’ service caretakers will be trained and employed to manage the parks in GB as areas for biodiversity protection, safe habitats for wildlife preservation as well as for the promotion of nature based ecotourism.

Along with the announcement of the two national parks in GB, a globally unique “nature corridor” has also been formed which traverses a high altitude area (over 10,000 feet high) and connects the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) through GB.

This will provide a protected and managed corridor for preserving the wildlife of the area — including the iconic snow leopards and Pakistan’s national animal markhors which are present in the area.

The special assistant to prime minister (SAPM) on climate change (SAPM-CC) Malik Amin Aslam said, “This high altitude nature corridor is an initiative of high global significance.”

The PM was informed that a breeding enclosure is being established in Skardu, to save the endangered Ladakh urial, in the natural habitat of the dwindling specie in order to enhance its numbers.

Three female Ladakh urial were already present in the area which are now being fenced and a male is being translocated from Bonji in GB.

This will be the first experiment of its kind globally to save the Ladakh urial which is endemic to only Pakistan and India and remains highly endangered.

PM Khan mentioned that the incumbent regime will show zero tolerance towards the timber mafia and praised the work of GB forest department under the 10 billion tree tsunami (10BTT) project.

He approved the deployment of frontier constabulary (FC) platoons specially for the forest protection drive in GB.