HINGOL and the proposed dam on the Hingol river have been in the news for quite some time. While it is rightly emphasised by various correspondents that the construction of the dam would result in the destruction of sacred sites revered by the Hindu community, another important point is that the whole area lies within the Hingol National Park, and any developmental activity is legally banned in the national parks.
The Hingol National Park is the second largest national park of Pakistan with an area of 610,043 hectares, including the Dhrun Wildlife Sanctuary. Lying about 190 km from Karachi on the Makran coast, the National Park includes parts of three districts i.e. Lasbela, Gwadar, and Awaran.
This national park is unique among other national parks by having an extremely wide range of ecological characteristics, habitat types, and topography. It ranges from sea level along the coast to quite high mountain peaks in Awaran; and from hot sandy deserts to cool and relatively moist climate at higher elevations, interspersed with numerous wetlands.
The southern part includes the vast and scenic estuary of the Hingol river with meandering water channels. With this high variety of physical features, the bio-diversity and ecosystem types are likewise rich and unique. The national park is home to a number of endemic and endangered species of natural flora and fauna. And much of this bio-diversity is fully discovered and recorded by scientists. In a survey that I made in November 2006 (in collaboration with the Balochistan Forest Department and WWF — Pakistan), more than 200 plant species were recognised in spite of the dry season at that time and some of them were found new to science. Thorough surveys in different seasons would reveal much higher numbers of plant and animal species.
Construction of the proposed dam would ruin the rich bio-diversity and the ecological processes of the Hingol National Park, which is a natural treasure. The livelihood of the local people can be improved by promoting carefully managed eco-tourisms in the national park.
Beyond the Hingol River estuary, the coastal highway meanders through rocks and small hills of unique beautiful shapes, carved by wind and water naturally over the millenia. Among them the most unique is the “Princess of Good Hope”, the name given by Angelina Jolie to a tall and slender rock that resembles a lady; when she visited Pakistan a few years back as United Nation's Goodwill Ambassador. Features like this should be highlighted to promote the ecotourism in the area.
PROFESSOR DR SURAYYA KHATOON