APROPOS the opinion piece ‘Rights of river’ (Dec 7) by Zubeida Mustafa. The writer has discussed in detail issues of state of our rivers and the issues confronting them. This is to remind our readers of the exemplary decision of 2010 by the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir by which the entire length of the Poonch River was declared a protected area.
The declaration of the Poonch River Mahasheer National Park ensures that the ecology of the river is protected.
The river was facing severe threats of unsustainable commercial fishing, uncontrolled angling using poisons, electrical current and explosives. There was destruction of the spawning habitat by extraction of gravel and sand mining, which was seriously threatening the population of Mahasheer (Tor putitora) and other aquatic life in the Poonch river.
The effort of department of wildlife and fisheries in AJK led to the complete secession of dynamite and electro fishing in the river and a proper watch and ward system has increased the number of Mahasheer in the river. A sustainable angling plan has also been developed to involve the local communities in planning and executing protection, conservation and sustainable extraction of Mahasheer in the national park.
The communities which had restrictions on catching fish for the last six years were finally permitted a limited number of licenses per year under strict guidance of PRMNP Management Committee for a period of one year and to be evaluated for further issuance of angling licences.
This first of its kind protection of a river as a national park ensures its protection for our future generations.
CEO Himalayan Wildlife Foundation
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018