PESHAWAR: Taking a major initiative for the conservation of wildlife and its habitats in diverse ecological zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial government has notified 11 sites as ‘protected areas’, including three national parks.

With the declaration of three new national parks, five conservancies and four sites of special scientific interest, the province’s protected areas coverage has jumped from the existing 10.22 per cent to 14.91 per cent, said an official in the department of wildlife.

“This is a big achievement, and we will enhance the coverage of the province’s protected area to 17 per cent in the next few months,” an official told Dawn.

The department of forestry, environment and wildlife, through separate notifications, declared thousands of hectors of land in Malakand, Hazara, Peshawar and Kohat divisions as protected areas under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act, 2015.

KP’s protected area coverage goes up from 10.22pc to 14.91pc

Under the Act, the national park, conservancy, wildlife sanctuary, site of special scientific interest, wildlife refuge, biosphere reserve, national natural heritage site and game reserve are called protected areas.

In light of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directives the wildlife department had worked out plan to establish six new national parks to increase the province’s protected area coverage. The plan, however, could not be executed due to differences of opinion among the stakeholders.

According to a notification the department has notified 5,236 hectares area in Nizampur area of Nowshera district has been given the status of national park. The area is bounded by Cherat cantt in north, River Indus in South and East and Darra Adamkhel area of Kohat district in the west.

In Mansehra, district, 19971.76 acres of reserve forests in Malkandi area of Mansehra district has been notified as national park. The area is bound by Kaghan valley in the north, Balakot city in the south, Matchiara Natioal Park of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in East and Souna Guzara Forest, River Kunhar in the west.

An area of 5455.82 acres of land in Kamal Ban area of Mansehra district has been declared as national park. The area is surrounded by Pattan Dais Guzara forest in north, Jarid Guzara forest in south, River Kunhar in east and Souna Guzara forest in the west.

With the notification of these new national parks, number of national parks in Mansehra district has jumped to four.

Besides, the department also notified five conservancies in different areas of the province including Mankial conservancy in Swat which is spread over an area of 20,380 hectors, Kalam conservancy over an area of 109,898 hectors, Terich Torkhow conservancy in Upper Chitral over an area of 262,228 hectares.

Besides, the picturesque Kumrat valley in Upper Dir over an area of 27,056 hectors and Dir Kohistan also in Upper Dir over an area of 29,742 hectors have also been declared conservancies.

In addition, four sites of special scientific interest have also been notified by the department in Buner, Swat and Haripur districts.

The size of the protected area of KP had dropped from 15 per cent to 10.21 per cent after the merger of tribal districts with the province in 2018. Being a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Pakistan is to increase protected area to 17 per cent of its total territory by the year 2030 to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. Pakistan’s total protected area is around 11 per cent.

Under the draft Protected Area Management Plan, the newly-established National Parks Service within the wildlife department would be strengthened. Officials said that the NPS to be extended to all five regions of the province including Upper Dir, Mansehra, Chitral, Peshawar or Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan would deal with the conservation and preservation of national parks.

“The newly established NPS will be very much focused on the conservation and preservation of the national parks,” said the official, adding that the respective district forest officers (wildlife) will lead the service.

He said the administration and management of all the wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, biosphere reserves, conservancies and SSSIs would be shifted to the conservator NPS.

The official said after notification of the protected areas the department in collaboration with other stakeholders would carry out demarcation of the new national parks, conservancies and sites of special scientific interest.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022



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