Officials, Experts for Greater focus on Building Environmental Concerns into FATA Development

PESHAWAR: An inception meeting on Thursday marked the launch of a two-year project aimed at improving water governance in FATA – a region already crippled by instability and environmental degradation over the years.

The meeting, organized jointly by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, invited participants from the FATA Secretariat, representatives of the KPK government, NGOs, CSOs, academia as well as included environment and water experts. The project on improving water governance in FATA is funded by the Swiss Development Corporation,and focuses on fostering effective water governance in FATA to manage scarce water resources and critical investments in the water sector for sustainable and productive use of these resources.

The chief guest on the occasion was the Secretary, Planning and Development, Department, Mr. Shakeel Qadir, who in his keynote address highlighted the numerous challenges facing the FATA region, as well as called for the need for establishment of an Environment Cell within the FATA Secretariat, so that environmental concerns are built into development planning. “The life-saving humanitarian, recovery and development efforts of the federal and provincial governments, the military, humanitarian agencies, donors and international financial institutions were successfully launched but the fact remains that the essential ecological focus was missing,” added Mr. Qadir. He added that the environmental impact assessments are also being built into their planning which is needed to preclude any development that degrades the environment.

Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative of IUCN Pakistan, highlighted the need for establishing an environmental cell in FATA Secretariat, and also recounted the role of IUCN as regards the FATA region. “IUCN’s early work in Pakistan was focused on the FATA region, for which IUCN had developed a sustainable development plan for FATA, and that work established the foundations for further work on environment-related strategies that IUCN crafted later for the government,” he explained.

“IUCN also assisted the FATA Secretariat in preparing pragmatic five years sectoral plans. Keeping in view the diverse requirements and priorities of each tribal agency, IUCN extended its expertise to develop Agency level plans that include drinking water, irrigation and fisheries. IUCN also established linkages with all the major stakeholders involved in FATA and has developed partnershipsfor implementation of the preparatory phase of the project,” Mr. Cheema disclosed.

He underscored the urgent need to address water challenges in the region and suggested a consultative process for taking the initiative forward. He was appreciative of the SDC for its contribution towards FATA’s development and hope the initiative would pave the way for further necessary work in FATA in the coming years.

Mr. Arbab Shakar, National Programme Officer, SDC, described SDC’s focus on the FATA region and its ongoing projects currently underway in FATA. “We hope this modest initiative would serve as a significant step towards addressing FATA’s challenges and lead to further work focused on helping the people of FATA.”

Mr. Faiz Kakar, the Project Lead, gave a detailed presentation on the project and sought inputs from the stakeholders present at the meeting. He said that environmental awareness was increasing and governments and donors both had become increasingly sensitive to environmental degradation and climate change impacts, earmarking substantial funds for address this challenge.

With the launch of the FATA project, IUCN has once again established its presence in the region, mainly also because of the dire need to address environmental degradation, which has been further aggravated by flooding and other impacts.