Acknowledgements 5 Glossary 6 List of Tables 8 List of Figures 9 List of Boxes 10 Pakistan Fact Sheet 11 Executive Summary 12
Source: World Development Indicators 2000, World Bank website.
As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Pakistan is required to submit an annual national report on the status, trends and the threats to the country’s rich biological resources. This is the first report to be submitted by the Government of Pakistan (GoP). For this, report a small grant of PAK RS. 450,000 was granted by GEF/UNEP, and the task of preparing it was awarded to LEAD-Pakistan, an NGO that trains mid-career professionals in the fields of environment, leadership and sustainable development.
Biodiversity is ineffectively safeguarded in the existing legislation of the country and is often a secondary topic of discussion in the development sector. It is also felt that the concept is poorly understood, even by those organisations that are directly concerned with its issues. However, the 1992 Rio Summit and the ratification of the CBD have sensitised the GoP to this important and neglected sector. The authors of this document feel that the process that led to the compilation of this report has trained many organisations and individuals on the many issues covered by the CBD.
Pakistan has wide geographic variations, which house a number of distinct ecological zones. Thousands of years of natural resource exploitation by human activity have led to widely modified natural habitats. The 35.4% urbanisation, 2.4% annual population growth rate and changed land use Practices are the causes of this modification. Loss of natural habitats has undergone significant acceleration in recent decades. However, adequate attempts have not been made, so far, to prepare a comprehensive and systematic list of threatened flora, fauna or ecosystems in the country.
Threats to Pakistan’s Biodiversity are well understood. They include: habitat loss, industrial pollution, invasive species, the growing demand for natural resources and the lack of adequate training on the subject of Biodiversity. Most of these threats are directly related to an increasing human population. In addition, no systematic work has been carried out on the status and threats to ecosystems, and the effects of global climate change are poorly understood.
Traditional medicines in Pakistan use about 400 plant species. About 85% of these species are collected from the wild while the rest are cultivated. Data on medicinal plants in the wild is scant. The provincial forest departments do auction the rights to collect medicinal plants, but quantities collected are not recorded. The most threatened ecosystems in Pakistan, containing medicinal and aromatic plants, are the temperate Himalayan forests in the upland areas.
Managing an ecosystem holistically by employing conservation policies that include wildlife and forests is unpractised in Pakistan. Hence, wildlife and forests are managed in isolation. The forest management plans of the country reflect the global debate of sustainable forestry against the traditional management. Sustainable forestry is not discussed and forest management plans mainly deal with the sustainable yield of timber and firewood. In the last century, some of Pakistan’s natural forests were declared reserve forests by the government and resultantly have been major harbingers of Biodiversity. Unfortunately, the pressures of human population and ineffectual forest management Practices threaten these protected areas. Forest Biodiversity is affected negatively by the introduced exotic species. However, some good initiatives have been taken by forestry departments, which includes the sharing of the forest resources with the local communities and their inclusion in the management of forests. With the financial and technical assistance of the government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), a number of environmental conservation projects have been implemented and others are to follow. The signs are encouraging.
Until the 1970s, the protection of wildlife came under the then broader mandate of forestry. When legislation for wildlife was drafted, provincial wildlife departments were set up and the two topics were separated. Wildlife management in Pakistan was previously concerned only with game species. However, with the growing realisation that all wild vertebrates possess important values, the scope of wildlife management has been broadened to include predators, songbirds, furbearers and vertebrate pests. Unfortunately though, as wildlife habitat is severely degraded, wildlife populations have suffered significantly. A large number of animals are now on the verge of extinction and fall under various categories of threatened species. However, little research has been done on Pakistan’s wildlife and the information on most species is sketchy. Major threats to wild animals include competition with domestic livestock for forage, infrastructure development, and hunting.
Large water bodies in the country support a variety of waterfowl that are both resident and migratory. The extent of wetlands is constantly changing due to the draining of swamps and marshes for cultivation and the creation of new dams for irrigation purposes. Canal irrigation through seepage has also contributed towards increasing land area underwater in the form of water logging. Such areas support a great number of waterfowl, by providing them with an excellent habitat.
Pakistan’s coastline of 1,050 km consists of a variety of habitat types, supporting a wide range of animals, of which over 1000 is fish species. Pakistan’s marine flora and fauna have not been studied extensively. Hence, detailed information on these species is deficient.
Pakistan’s freshwater resources are dominated by the Indus River system, which drains into the Arabian Sea through the Indus Delta. Studies on fauna have identified resident fish and their natural distribution. Indiscriminate and over-fishing is a real threat to Pakistan’s native fish of commercial value. Pakistan’s fisheries policy deals only with aqua-culture, fishing licenses and auctions of fishing rights, although the rules do cater for the preservation of undersize fish for commercial purposes. The conservation of indigenous species or habitats is not an issue in fisheries policies and laws. Important aquatic mammals like the threatened Indus dolphin are not mentioned in the fisheries laws. Although the Indus dolphin is protected under the Wildlife Act, the fisheries departments regulate fishing in the Indus. The isolation of concerned legislation and government departments is a major threat to the welfare of such species special concern.
Most of Pakistan’s population, directly or indirectly, depends on agriculture. The introduction of modern, intensive farming systems, using imported hybrid seed varieties and modern technology has resulted in a situation that could lead to the loss of Pakistan’s Biodiversity. These systems are resulting in the replacement of native crops by high-yielding imported varieties, particularly local varieties of vegetables. Presently, no legislation provides protection to indigenous plants. By establishing repositories of clones of agricultural crops, progress has been made at the National Agriculture Research Centre, Islamabad. Livestock research focuses on maximising meat and milk production through cross breeding. Apart from cows, local livestock breeds are not under any immediate threat. The conservation of local breeds however has not been addressed yet. These issues were highlighted when research was being conducted for this first CBD report and it is hoped that accordingly they will be addressed.
Biotechnology is an emerging field that has not yet been fully institutionalised in Pakistan. Efforts are underway to mainstream this discipline into the agricultural and livestock sectors of the country. Pakistan is conscious of the threats of the unregulated spread of genetic material and research. A National Biosafety Committee has therefore been established at the MELGRD, which is responsible for the development of biosafety guidelines.
The fair and equitable sharing of benefits of biological resources, issues of traditional knowledge and indigenous people are important components of the CBD. Despite, earlier legislation providing some forests rights to local communities, a policy statement on the rights of the traditional people and the sharing of income from natural biological resources does not exist. Pakistan’s biological resources are used for economic gains by the government and little benefits accrue to the local community directly. However, projects have been implemented to promote the concepts of community participation and joint management of natural resources. These aim to mobilise the local population to conserve and improve access to biological resources. A review of the existing laws dealing with biological resources, like the Forest Act of 1927, reveals the issue of equitable benefit sharing as perceived by the government. The clash in the perceptions on the usage of natural resources can be highlighted in four cases. These are the Haqdari Rights in the Murree hills, forest legislation in Hazara, land rights in the scrub forests of the Salt Range and the Cholistan desert. Hence, the BAP recommends that apart from the government, NGOs as well as local communities should be involved in the management of biological resources. Attention needs to be paid to the issues of sharing benefits. Traditional knowledge needs to be applied wisely, particularly as traditional activities such as hunting urial, killing bears for medicine, unrestricted tree cutting and free grazing have become illegal. Consequently, these have now become a source of conflict between the authorities and the local communities.
The land that now comprises Pakistan has always had a peculiar attraction to invaders from outside. The Central Asian, Turkish, Afghan, Arab, Persian and British invaders not only conquered this land but also lived here for long periods, thus influencing the social culture. They also brought exotic plants and animals that today are fully adapted to and part of the ecosystem. Examples of introductions are the fruit trees by the Mughals, trout by the British, and horses and dates by the Arabs. During the last century, certain plants were imported for their economic value and ability to tolerate arid conditions. Examples include the eucalyptus and mesquite. While debate on the merits of Eucalypti is still inconclusive, mesquite is acknowledged as an invasive weed. Another example is the uncalculated introduction of species into isolated ecosystems e.g. the feral cats in the islands off the Arabian Sea in Balochistan. The fishermen introduced these cats to kill rodents to stop them from destroying the fishing nets. Contrarily, these cats have been destroying the migratory birds’ nests and consequently the number of wintering birds has decreased. Eucalyptus is widely grown on farmlands, public forests, linear strips, village surroundings and grazing lands. However, it is known to compete with the local flora for nutrients and outpaces all other species in drawing water from deeper soils.
The development of a core set of indicators is essential to monitor the changes and trends in Biodiversity. Baselines to monitor changes are essential. However, agreement has to be made on whether baselines are to be set at the time of pre industrialisation, the signing of the CBD or at a century ago. Information is available on the status of major ecosystems, as they were a century ago, in district gazetteers prepared by the British during their rule. Some preliminary work on the development of indicators of sustainable development, including Biodiversity has been done by the MELGRD. This is focused on socio-economic, ecological, and sustainable development indicators.
Pakistan has responded fully to most Biodiversity related international conventions such as: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), The RAMSAR Convention, The Convention on World Heritage, and The Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), etc. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s capacity to enforce and comply with these conventions at the local, national and international levels is inadequate. The required efforts to implement these have not been fully harnessed due to institutional, legal and financial constraints. There is also a strong need to revise national laws, rules and regulations to compliment international obligations. Although the MELGRD is making efforts to implement, the CBD, Pakistan needs to do much more. The poor progress so far can be attributed to inadequate resources and trained work force in the field of Biodiversity, and this was felt strongly during the process of the preparation of this report.
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