KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday shared concern over the city’s growing environmental degradation mainly driven by ill-planned development projects, especially construction of housing societies, causing loss of forests and critical habitats of wildlife species.

The event — Biodiversity; Conservation, Issues and Challenges — was organised by botany department of the University of Karachi on the campus.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Rubina Abid, the chairperson of the department, regretted massive deforestation carried out in the name of urbanisation and industrialisation.

“We are even cutting hills and mountains in Karachi’s suburbs to make way for housing societies, which is resulting in habitat loss of various wildlife species,” she said, adding that human factors were behind environmental degradation and subsequent loss of biodiversity.

The loss of biodiversity, she pointed out, would enhance the effects of climate change and increase the risk for natural disasters.

“We can see the change in our city’s weather over the past two decades, which is warmer now. Last year, Pakistan has faced massive floods in its history and faced huge economic and human loss,” Prof Abid said, adding that climate change was causing significant changes to ecosystems and could make biodiversity conservation difficult.

Excavation of hills in suburbs for housing societies causing habitat loss of various wildlife species, says expert

While her comments had no specific reference to any project(s), reservations of experts over mega schemes like Bahria Town Karachi, DHA City, Malir Expressway or others within the city that led to destruction of trees on a larger scale, as well as muted role of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency are all well documented.

And, though these reservations despite their seriousness couldn’t elicit a matching response from the government, there has been growing awareness among the masses about the compromises made at the official level to a point that now threatens public health, as suggested by experts against the backdrop of city’s poor air quality levels.

Plant conservation key Prof Abid also explained why plant conservation is the key to protect biodiversity.

“Plants are earth’s lungs. They are the first component of the food chain and provide shelter to countless species. Eliminating a single plant from a habitat leads to elimination of several wildlife species that are associated with that particular plant. Hence, to conserve biodiversity, it is important to conserve plants,” she said.

Earlier, speakers underscored the need for a close collaboration among all stakeholders for the cause of nature conservation and termed deforestation, soil erosion, salinity and waterlogging as major threats to the country’s biodiversity.

Pakistan home to 1,250 plants, animals

They also highlighted biodiversity assets and told the audience that the country was home to more than 1,250 species of plants and animals.

“Some of world’s rarest animals and plants are found in our country. But, today, these assets are in danger due to habitat loss and overexploitation amid rising human population,” KU science faculty dean Prof Samina Bano said.

Dr Samina Kidwai, director general of the National Institute of Oceanography, talked about Pakistan’s marine biodiversity and its ecosystems.

The current decade, she told the audience, was designated by the UN as the Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, while emphasising the need for listing species and mapping them.

“All forms of life have a right to exist and it is the current generation’s responsibility that we leave behind a steady and healthy legacy,” she said, adding that there were roughly 250,000 species reported from the marine ecosystems worldwide, with almost 1.7 million taxonomic names.

Naghmana Zafar from the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan mentioned that the cause of conservation of biodiversity could be achieved by adopting the principles of blue economy and that the main focus of addressing biodiversity and conservation challenges should be the oceans and seas.

She said that ingredients for blue growth are already available in abundance in Pakistan. However, to develop this sector there was a need to enhance the capacity of all stakeholders, while also taking along the emerging security needs at national and international levels.

Director at KU’s Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Prof Bilquees Gul described overexploitation of species, introduction of invasive alien species in local environment, pollution, climate change, and the degradation, fragmentation, and destruction of habitats as the key drivers of biodiversity loss.

Dr Sadaf Gul of KU’s botany department said: “The conservation of biodiversity is a complex and ongoing process that requires persistent attention and effort,” she said.

Published in Dawn, February 23th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s projections
Updated 18 Apr, 2024

IMF’s projections

The problems are well-known and the country is aware of what is needed to stabilise the economy; the challenge is follow-through and implementation.
Hepatitis crisis
18 Apr, 2024

Hepatitis crisis

THE sheer scale of the crisis is staggering. A new WHO report flags Pakistan as the country with the highest number...
Never-ending suffering
18 Apr, 2024

Never-ending suffering

OVER the weekend, the world witnessed an intense spectacle when Iran launched its drone-and-missile barrage against...
Saudi FM’s visit
Updated 17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

The government of Shehbaz Sharif will have to manage a delicate balancing act with Pakistan’s traditional Saudi allies and its Iranian neighbours.
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...