Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan wants Karakoram-Pamir Biosphere in GB as its Third Reserve

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ISLAMABAD (PT): A two-day 5th meeting of The South and Central Asia Man and Biosphere Network (SACAM) organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and UNESCO started on Tuesday.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid was the chief guest on the inaugural session. Highlighting the primary theme of the meeting ‘Harmonising Community Livelihood with Biodiversity Conservation’ the minister said that local communities had to play an important role in biodiversity conversation. “We have to use the most suitable and appropriate method of harmonising biodiversity conservation by fulfilling the need of the local communities.”

Pakistan has only two Biosphere Reserves 1) The Lal Sohanra National Park located in Cholistan Desert which was approved by UNESCO in 1977 and 2) the Juniper forest of Ziarat, believed to be the second largest juniper forest of its kind in the world, which was approved in May, 2013.

The minister disclosed that Pakistan had prepared requisite documents, including a Management Plan, for approval of the Karakoram Pamir Biosphere Reserve in Gilgit Baltistan which would be the third Biosphere Reserve in Pakistan. This area had a tremendous potential for scientific research on climate change, mountain livelihood and ecosystems.

About the second theme of the meeting ‘Biodiversity and Emerging Global issues in Biosphere Reserves’ the minister warned about the global warming and resultant climate change which was a very serious phenomenon the world was facing en block, effecting all the socio-economic sectors, including agriculture and food production, water resources, ecosystem, biodiversity, infrastructure and human health.

He stated that Pakistan being a developing country is in a similar situation. It has the least contribution to global warming i.e. ranked at 135th position in carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, it is faced with severe climate changes and has been ranked third in the list of most vulnerable countries to climate change. A recent report from World Bank warned Pakistan of the existence of five major risks related to climate change: rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts.

Referring to his address at the International Conference on Climate Change: Plants, People and Climate on November 4, 2013, the minister said that some press coverage of his address had incorrectly attributed to him the statement that Pakistan‘s glaciers would melt by 2035. The minister clarified that he had quoted the Fourth Assessment Report 2007 of International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the effect that glaciers in Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of these glaciers disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high. But in a subsequent statement (in 2010), the IPCC had itself clarified that while widespread mass losses from these glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate through the 21st century, estimates of the rate of recession and date of disappearance for the Himalayan glaciers in the 2007 report had been poorly substantiated. Moreover, in the Fifth Assessment Report (2013) the IPCC had again declared that there was robust evidence that globally glaciers continue to shrink and lose mass, but that there were notable regional exceptions to these trends. Other papers/studies relating to the melting of Hindukush-Karakoram-Himalayan glaciers have also reached similar conclusions. Glaciers in the eastern and central regions of the Himalayas appear to be retreating at rates that have accelerated over the past century and are comparable to those in other parts of the world .The glaciers in the Western Himalayas are more in equilibrium with the current climate and may be retreating at a slower rate than those in the east and in some cases advancing.

The minister for science and technology said that he was certain that the recommendations of the experts will be of great benefit to the government of Pakistan in implementing plans for the management of its Biospheres Reserves. This would also be in line with the national agenda set by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which is being implemented by the Ministry of Science and Technology for the establishment of a sound and sustainable science and technological research base, leading to the rapid socio-economic development of the country.

Speaking at the occasion Federal Sectary for Science and Technology Kamran Ali Qureshi highlighted the importance of the events. He appreciated the role of the national and international organisations for the public awareness regarding the global issues of climate change and global warming.

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