07 June, 2012

Experts alarmed at Climate Change effects on CKNP

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Experts at a seminar held on Thursday urged the government to take serious measures to conserve the environment of Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) in Gilgit Biltistan – rich in natural biodiversity and cultural heritage. Speakers at a consultation on “Climate Change and Ecosystem Assessment of the CKNP Region”, have demanded establishment of a Committee under the supervision of Ministry of Climate Change to protect rich biodiversity region. 

The study ‘CKNP - Climate Change and Ecosystem Assessment Report’ highlighted drastic changes in climatic conditions in the CKNP region which has become warmer with increased rainfalls, changed snow patterns and less intensity of winter affecting the communities, culture, economy, livestock, pattern of agriculture and biodiversity. 

“CKNP region is under threat with loss of plant species, less fruit production, and threat to endangered species mostly because of human interferences and deforestation” divulged Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Research Fellow, SDPI. He regretted the authorities have ignored devastating impacts of climate change on ecosystem of northern areas. Haruko Okusu, Programme Officer, UNEP noted that “CKNP region, rich in natural biodiversity and cultural heritage, is highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change.” She suggested that sincere efforts must be made to improve the quality of life of local communities and the conservation of environment, architectural and cultural heritage of the region. 

According to an expert on the region, Dr. Ashiq Khan, Former Technical Advisor, WWF, the best approach to counter climate change effect would be to combine the scientific and indigenous knowledge of the local community. He suggested that any future study on the region should be based on mutual learning system between researchers and local people. “We must act fast to conserve both natural and built up environment, improve quality of life, preserve culture and biodiversity of globally significant region of CKNP” stressed Ambassador (Retd) Shafqat Kakakhel. 

Experts suggested that there was a need to conduct comprehensive studies on the Karakoram region and to involve the local community in conducting projects and research in the area through a well-coordinated system. The CKNP which covers an area of 10,000 sq. km and constitutes the districts of Skardu, Ghanche, Gilgit and Hunza, has one of the unique ecosystems including highest glacier peaks such as Baltoro, Panmah, Biafo, Hispar glaciers. The area is rich in biodiversity, particularly with reference to the different species of flora and fauna. The area is of considerable importance to Pakistan as it is where a number of glaciers feeding the Indus water system are situated. Glaciers, forests, pastures and biodiversity are the most vulnerable resources in CKNP. The threat calls for concerted efforts for integrated study to explore issues and remedies through a social, economic and environmental appraisal. 

The seminar was jointly arranged by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Ev-K2-CNR, Government of Italy. Findings of a report on climate change impacts on the ecosystem and socio- economic conditions in Central Karakoram National Park were also shared at the seminar.