GIVEN the sorry state of conservation in Pakistan, where the authorities themselves issue permits for the hunting of endangered species such as the houbara bustard, it is easy to become depressed about the status of our natural surroundings. True, a number of both local and international organisations are doing their best to help the country’s diverse flora and fauna flourish. But the level of awareness and concern of state and society is fairly low. Under such circumstances, one of the better pieces of news recently was that a local NGO, the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organisation, has become the first entity in Pakistan to win the prestigious Equator Prize. It is among 15 entities from around the world to have achieved the honour this year. The prize was launched by the United Nations Equator Initiative in 2002, in order to showcase global community efforts to relieve poverty through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. The BWCDO works with 17 villages in Baltistan to protect the endangered snow leopard, which is hunted down by villagers to protect their livestock. The BWCDO has found a solution in running insurance schemes and financial compensation against livestock losses resulting from snow leopard attacks.
The dedication of the workers of this NGO is exemplary, and while being celebrated ought to also provide reason to note that well thought-out initiatives and interventions can work. There is much to be done in Pakistan in terms of halting the various kinds of serious damage inflicted on the country’s biodiversity and reversing the trajectory. Whether it is the snow leopards of the north or the mangrove forests of the coast, the scale of the challenge is immense. With recent developments such as the spotting of sperm and blue whales off the Pakistan coastline in the past few days — in what appears to be a first for our waters — there are chances that the task may grow in magnitude. The country should not be found wanting.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2017