CHITRAL, Jan 1: A project aimed at conserving globally important habitats and species of wildlife has been launched in Chitral. The project will be funded by the Global Environment Facility through the World Bank.

Named as the Protected Areas Management Project, it is jointly implemented by the provincial and the federal governments. According to information gathered from the office of the PAMP, the project will cost $3.1 million, covering a period of five years.

The protected area which is being developed and managed by the PAMP is the Chitral Gol National Park. The park is unique for being the home of national tree (deodar), national animal (markhor), and national bird (chukar) at the same time.

The park enjoys world fame for being the permanent abode of globally endangered snow leopard and largest surviving population of Kashmiri markhor.

The other wildlife species found within the national park include Himalayan ibex, Afghan urial, black bear, wolf, Himalayan snow cock, monal pheasant, snow partridge, rock partridge. The prominent flora includes oak, chalgoza pine, deodar, juniper and wild almond.

The biodiversity in the park was being threatened by livestock grazing, wood collection by communities around the park, poaching and soil erosion. To arrest the potential dangers it was decided to reduce park- people conflicts by integrating local communities into park planning and management activities.

The population of the eleven villages embracing the park area has been organized to village conservation communities. To achieve the objectives, it has been planned to integrate the custodian communities into park management and formulate park management plan. The improvement of park infrastructure and operation and human resource development are also some of the strategies.

A project manager with a park planning team based in Chitral is responsible for day-to-day implementation of the project. WWF- Pakistan is providing technical support in the park planning.

The project is based on the innovative approach of integrating local communities into the park management. For this purpose, local communities have been organized and empowered to take part in decision-making through various committees including village conservation committee.

The project will ensure sufficient flexibility in work planning and project implementation to deal with local conditions, community needs and aspirations to address specific threats to biodiversity conservation.

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