ISLAMABAD: The International Day for Biological Diversity was jointly celebrated by the IUCN Pakistan, Ministry of Climate Change and Serena Hotels on May 22. The theme for the year 2017 is “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism”. Participation of key stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and civil society, emphasized the obligations under the ratification of Convention on Biodiversity were discussed with the objective for multi-stakeholders participation.
Honourable Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Government of Pakistan, Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb emphasized on Pakistan’s indigenous narrative of culture, sports and tourism. She highlighted that the economic valuation of the environmental services must be ascertained. She promised to support the declaration of Astola as the Pakistan’s first Marine Protected Area in the cabinet that has been forwarded through the Ministry of Climate Change with the technical support by IUCN. She also emphasized the interest of Prime Minister of Pakistan in promoting tourism in Pakistan, and is interested to utilize the great potential of tourism. Honourable Minister highly appreciated the work of IUCN and invited IUCN to work with PTV and Radio Pakistan for promoting awareness on the biodiversity of Pakistan as National Heritage. She made references to an enormous work done by IUCN jointly with the Government starting from National Conservation Strategy in 1992.She greatly appreciated media for the wonderful coverage of this important subject for wider awareness.
Syed Rizwan Mehboob, Advisor to Prime Minister for Climate Change, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan in his keynote speech highlighted that in Pakistan the biodiversity and tourism have been linked in the past sometime, whereas commercial tourism has taken place. He emphasized on the strategic role of IUCN in bridging the gap between private and public sector on tourism and building on sustainable ecotourism. He also boasted of a great number of potential ecotourism sites in Pakistan that are of international standard and can be developed accordingly.
Malik Amin Aslam, IUCN Global Vice President and Regional Councillor Asia provided an overview of the Biodiversity conservation priority status of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A target of twenty five percent (25%) of increased forest cover was achieved through Green Growth Program initiated by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This was also pledged under The Bonn Challenge for global visibility. He emphasized on the need for the Ecotourism Parks.
Ms. Santa Mole, Head of Italy’s Agency for Development Cooperation in Pakistan, highlighted that the Ecotourism brings with itself the potentiality for the maintenance and the sustainable use of the biological and traditional heritage. She appreciated great natural biodiversity in Pakistan.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan in his welcome address shared the great work done by IUCN in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan. He highlighted the role of biodiversity in ecosystems and overall environment. He drew attention of the participants towards the subject matter- “Biodiversity – the variety of life on Earth – which makes our planet habitable and beautiful. Many of us look to the natural environment for pleasure, inspiration or recreation. We also depend on it for food, energy, raw materials, air and water – the elements that make life on this planet possible and drive our economies. He also stressed upon reinforcing global commitments for biodiversity conservation
through the provision and regulation of cultural and supporting services for biodiversity resources. In coordination with the Ministry of Climate Change, IUCN is working for Astola Island to be declared as Pakistan’s first Marine Protected Area.
Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan highlighted that the ecotourism has never been part of any policy in the past till it became part of the National Forest Policy of Pakistan recently. He emphasized the need for ecotourism policy both at the national and provincial levels. He appreciated IUCN for organizing the celebration of International Biodiversity Day by engaging the diverse speakers.
Dr. Anis ur Rehman, Chairman, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board highlighted the issues and potential for ecotourism in Margalla Hills National Park and Pooch River in AJK. Mr. Abdul Rehman, Coordinator Invasive Alien Species CABI Bio-Science highlighted the impact of Invasive Alien Species on ecotourism. Mr. Naeem Ashraf Raja, Director Biodiversity, Ministry of Climate Change presented a beautiful picture of tourism through National Parks in Pakistan and generated great interest in species conservation. Mr. Faisal Khan, General Manager, Tourism Promotion Services, Islamabad Serena Hotel presented vote of thanks and reflected the commitment of Serena hotels towards the improvement of environment and also stressed on the conservation of Biodiversity.