With its dramatic geological history, broad latitudinal spread and immense altitudinal range, Pakistan spans a remarkable number of the world's broad ecological regions. These range from the coastal mangrove forests of the Arabian Sea to the spectacular mountain tops where the western Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges meet. This variety of habitats also supports a rich variety of different species which contributes to the overall biological diversity (or “biodiversity”) of the country.
Pakistan has some of the world’s rarest animals and plants but these are now in danger of disappearing forever due to overuse and loss of natural habitat. While people are without doubt a most valuable resource in Pakistan, uncontrolled population growth puts ever-increasing pressures on the country’s natural resource base. Misguided economic policies have widened inequalities and forced rural people and others to exploit biodiversity at rates that are no longer sustainable. As a result, processes such as deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, salinity and waterlogging have become major threats to the remaining biodiversity in Pakistan. It is now feared that Pakistan has the world’s second highest rate of deforestation. The continuing loss of this forest habitat with its associated fauna and flora will have serious implications for the nation’s other natural and agro-ecosystems.
Just as more and more people may be part of the problem, they must also be part of the solutions. The key to protecting the biological heritage of Pakistan lies in the involvement of local people and in the support provided by competent institutions for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The Government of Pakistan recognized the importance of these measures in the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy (1992) and in becoming a signatory to, and ratifying, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994.
The current Biodiversity Action Plan(BAP) is a first attempt to meet the planning requirements of the Convention. It tries to roll into one, the three sequential processes called for under the Convention (the country study, national strategy, and action plan). As such it provides a brief assessment of the status and trend of the nation’s biodiversity (Chapter 2), outlines strategic goals and objectives (Chapter 3), and identifies a plan of action that includes coordination arrangements and implementation measures (Chapters 4, 5, and 6). Preparation of the BAP has been carried out under an agreement between the Government of Pakistan and the World Bank under the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEF). The World Conservation Union, Pakistan (IUCN-P) was selected as the lead agency in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P).
The process leading up to preparation of the BAP has involved broad participation from governments, academia and civil society through national and regional-level consultative workshops to develop and review the draft document. A number of background papers were prepared for BAP by national experts on sectoral and cross-cutting issues. Periodic oversight during the drafting of BAP has been provided by a national Biodiversity Working Group constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development and consisting largely of government representatives.
This Biodiversity Action Plan sets out a strategy for action under 13 main components which correspond to the Articles of the CBD: planning and policies, legislation, identification and monitoring, in-situ conservation, ex-situ conservation, sustainable use, incentive measures, research and training, public education and awareness, environmental impact assessment, access issues, exchange of information, and financial resources. For each component, the issues relevant to Pakistan are identified and a list of objectives and corresponding actions are recommended to deal with the identified issues. Slowing the rate of biodiversity loss in Pakistan will require policy and institutional reform as well as institutional strengthening to better understand the elements of biodiversity and the most effective means for ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of these elements. The active participation and support of local communities will be essential for in-situ conservation. The Plan calls for greater collaboration between government agencies, local communities and NGOs to work together as partners in biodiversity conservation.
Overall responsibility for implementation of the BAP will fall on the Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development (MELGRD) which is also the national focal point for implementing the CBD. The Plan proposes establishing a small Biodiversity Secretariat within MELGRD using existing resources to coordinate BAP implementation and foster linkages between, and within, different sectors affecting biodiversity. The location and structure of the Secretariat should be finalized by the Ministry itself. The Secretariat would report to a Federal Biodiversity Steering Committee and receive technical support from a broad-based, re-notified Biodiversity Working Group. Since most implementation measures will take place at the provincial level, the Plan also proposes Provincial Steering Committees to be constituted (or merged with those created under provincial conservation strategies).
Finally, the Plan provides an implementation schedule of proposed actions to prioritise those that could be implemented immediately and at low cost following government endorsement of the first Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan.
Annexure 1: Report on Stakeholder Participation 68
Annexure 2: Other International Biodiversity-related Conventions to which
Pakistan is a Party 74
List of Figures Figure 1: Map of Pakistan 5
Figure 2: Major Vegetative Zones of Pakistan 7
Figure 3: Organogram for BAP Implementation 64
List of Tables Table 1: Species Richness and Endemics for Major Plant and Animal Groups in Pakistan. 10
Table 2: Critically Threatened Ecosystems in Pakistan 15
Table 3: Human Use of Wildlife in Pakistan. Most of the species included are
believed to be declining partially (or wholly) due to this use 18
Table 4: Summary of Protected Areas in Pakistan (based on NCCW data) 37
Table 5 BAP Implementation Schedule.
Numbers refer to specific actions as described in Section 4 65
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms AIOU Allama Iqbal Open University
AJK Azad Jammu and Kashmir
BCS Balochistan Conservation Strategy
BWG Biodiversity Working Group
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
CERC Centre for Environment Research and Conservation
EIA Environmental Impact Assessment
GATT General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs
GBS Global Biodiversity Strategy
GEF Global Environment Facility
GoNWFP Government of North West Frontier Province
GoP Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
HESS Household Energy Strategy Study
HYVs High Yielding Varieties
ICBP Inter-governmental Council for Bird Preservation
INTRODUCTION 1.1 WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY Biological diversity or “biodiversity” has been defined as:
“the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems”. (CBD 1992). Diversity within species (or genetic diversity) refers to variability in the functional units of heredity present in any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin. Species diversity is used to describe the variety of species - whether wild or domesticated) within a geographical area. Estimates of the total number of species (defined as a population of organisms which are able to interbreed freely under natural conditions) range from 2 to 100 million, though less than 1.5 million have actually been described. Ecosystem diversity refers to the enormous variety of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and ecological processes that make them function.
In short, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth. This variety provides the building blocks to adapt to changing environmental conditions in the future.
1.2 WHY IS BIODIVERSITY IMPORTANT? Richness of species in an area indicates the total biodiversity of that particular area. However, it increases with the complexity of an ecosystem and vice versa. All species display genetic variation among individuals and populations. Genetic variation brings natural selection and adaptability to changes in the environment, which ultimately ensures species survival. Genetic diversity in domestic species and their wild relatives enables researchers to develop improved varieties of animals and plants for human needs. Diversity in wild plant species is major medicinal resource in ‘Yunani Tib’, and 40% of the allopathic drugs were originally made from wild medicinal plants, and it is insurance for further food security.
Biodiversity provides free of charge services worth hundreds of billions of rupees every year that are crucial to the well-being of Pakistan’s society. These services include clean water, pure air, pollination, soil formation and protection, crop pest control, and the provision of foods, fuel, fibres and drugs. As elsewhere, these services are not widely recognized, nor are they properly valued in economic, or even social terms. Reduction in biodiversity (including local extinction of species) affects these ecosystem services. The sustainability of ecosystems depends to a large extent on the buffering capacity provided by having a rich and healthy diversity of genes, species and habitats. In that respect, biological diversity is like economic diversity in a city; it is essential for long term survival and a sound investment in the future.
Conservation of biodiversity also makes good environmental sense. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that supports crop production are all products of the complex interactions that occur among various living organisms on earth. If these vital ecological services are damaged, so are the physical conditions maintained by the world’s species and ecosystems. Losing biodiversity is a bit like losing the life support systems that we, and other species, so desperately depend upon.
The conservation of biodiversity is fundamental to achieving sustainable development. It provides flexibility and options for our current (and future) use of natural resources. Almost 70% of the population in Pakistan lives in rural areas, and a large part of this population depends directly or indirectly on natural resources. Conservation of biodiversity is crucial to the sustainability of sectors as diverse as energy, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, wildlife, industry, health, tourism, commerce, irrigation and power. Pakistan’s development in the future will continue to depend on the foundation provided by living resources and conserving biodiversity will ensure this foundation is strong.
1.3 THE CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (CBD) The future of life on Earth captured worldwide attention at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 when 155 nations, states and the European Union signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This act signalled their intention to form a global alliance to protect habitats, species, and genes, to shift to sustainable modes of resource use, and to make the necessary policy, economic and managerial adjustments to guarantee that the benefits to be gained from the use of components of biological diversity are equitably shared across local, regional, and global societies. The CBD was signed by Pakistan in 1992 and ratified by the Cabinet in 1994.
Pakistan and other nations at Rio also adopted a comprehensive global work plan for sustainable development and global environmental protection well into the 21st century. Named 'Agenda 21', the plan contains 40 chapters of non-binding recommendations spanning the full range of social, economic, and environmental issues. One chapter is devoted to the conservation of biological diversity, and biodiversity-related activities are featured throughout other chapters.
Having agreed to conserve biodiversity, foster the sustainable use of forests, fisheries, agriculture and other resources, transfer related technologies, and share in financial investments, Pakistan faces the question: how can the nation determine what steps to take? Article 6 of the Convention calls for parties to:
develop national strategies, plans or programmes, or adapt existing plans, to address the provisions of the Convention; and to integrate biodiversity work into sectoral and cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.
The preparation of conservation and development strategies and action plans is not new to Pakistan. Pakistan has a well established procedure for the preparation of Five Year Plans and Annual Development Plans. Pakistan has a National Conservation Strategy (GOP/JRC-IUCN 1992) adopted as national policy in 1993 and accepted by the World Bank as the National Environmental Action Plan. A Sarhad Provincial Conservation Strategy (GoNWFP 1996) has been completed and other regional strategies (Northern Areas, Balochistan) are in preparation. There are also a number of sectoral plans for biological resources such as the Forestry Sector Master Plan (GOP 1992).
Pakistan has been involved in many aspects of biodiversity conservation including national park planning, endangered species protection and recovery, and plant and animal propagation and breeding. In some sectors, such as forestry, Pakistan has worked at larger scales to manage watersheds. However, experience with planning and implementing biodiversity-related measures has been limited. Pakistan has not yet approached biodiversity planning and implementation in the comprehensive, integrated manner required by the Convention.
Three processes used in sequence have been recommended for adoption in the Convention: country studies (biodiversity assessment), national strategies (developing goals and operational objectives), and action plans (identifying actions and implementation measures). All three are components of a larger and quite flexible process that can help countries build on existing institutions, programmes, investments, and capabilities. This process is cyclical. It leads countries to periodically assess their biota and capacity, identify an evolving set of priorities and actions for responding to new opportunities, and prepare different reports to government, society and the Convention on their findings and conclusions. The process is multi-sectoral, involving a wide range of government ministries, private resource-using industries, and civilsociety. And finally, it is adaptive. It is revised and reformulated as new information arrives, and the results of previous activities and investments are continually assessed.
1.4 A BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN FOR PAKISTAN This Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Pakistan is a first attempt to meet the planning requirements of the Convention. It rolls into one the three sequential processes called for under the Convention (the country study, national strategy, and action plan). The Pakistan BAP provides a brief assessment of the status and trend of the nation’s biodiversity (Chapter 2), outlines strategic goals and objectives (Chapter 3), and identifies a plan of action that includes coordination arrangements and implementation measure (Chapters 4, 5, and 6).
Preparation of the BAP has been carried out under an agreement between the Government of Pakistan and the World Bank under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund. The World Conservation Union, Pakistan (IUCN-P) was selected as the lead agency in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P).
Broad participation has been sought through a consultative process which has included: periodic oversight by the national Biodiversity Working Group constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Urban Affairs, Forests and Wildlife (now the Ministry of Environment, Local Government, and Rural Development); a national level consultative workshop attended by 87 scientists and managers concerned with biodiversity issues; the preparation of a number of background papers by experts on sectoral and cross-cutting issues; and distribution of a draft BAP and its review at five provincial consultative workshops attended by 172 participants. For a full review of the consultative process leading up to BAP preparation, see Annex 1.
While the BAP necessarily covers much of the same ground covered by the National and Provincial Conservation Strategies, it is more focused on biodiversity and therefore provides a new and important perspective. Biodiversity conservation in Pakistan will be better served, at least initially, by a distinctive and focused action plan. Such a plan can promote awareness, unleash political will, and funding. The planning exercise will also be the subject of Pakistan's first National Report to the Conference of the Parties on the implementation of the CBD.
BIODIVERSITY IN PAKISTAN - A REVIEW 2.1 CURRENT STATUS Biogeography Pakistan covers a land area of 882,000 km2(Fig. 1), almost all of which might be considered part of the watershed of the River Indus. From the Arabian Sea coast and the mouths of the Indus near the Tropic of Cancer, Pakistan extends some 1,700 km northward to the origins of the Indus among the mountains of the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakorum, whose peaks exceed 8,000 metres (K-2, 8,611 m, the second highest in the world). Pakistan has a coastline of about 1,046 km with 22,820 km2 of territorial waters and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of about 196,600 km2.
The land mass of Pakistan originated in the continent of Gondwanaland which is thought to have broken off from Africa, drifted across the Indian Ocean, and joined mainland Asia some 50 million years ago. With the creation of a land-bridge between Gondwanaland and south-east Asia, Indo-Malayan life-forms are thought to have invaded the evolving subcontinent, and these now predominate in Pakistan east of the River Indus. The north and west of the country is dominated by Palaearctic forms. Some Ethiopian forms have become established in the south-western part. Some 20 million years ago, the gradual drying and retreat of the Sea of Tethys created the Indus lowlands, and a violent upheaval 13 million years ago gave rise to the Himalayas. A series of Pleistocene 'ice-ages', the last ending just 10,000 years ago, gave rise to some unique floral and faunal associations.
With its dramatic geological history, broad latitudinal spread and immense altitudinal range, Pakistan spans a remarkable number of the world's broad ecological regions. According to various classification systems (UNEP 1995), Pakistan includes examples of three of the world's eight biogeographic 'realms' (the Indo-Malayan Realm, Palaearctic Realm and Africotropical Realm), four of the world's ten 'biomes' (the desert biome, temperate grassland biome, tropical seasonal forest biome and mountain biome) and three of the world's four 'domains' (the polar/montane domain, humid temperate domain, and dry domain).
Pakistan's seas fall biogeographically within the 'Arabian Seas Region 11' (Kelleher et al. 1995). The coastal area from Pakistan west to Somalia is considered by Hayden et al. (1984) to be the coastal-margin realm, 'Eastern Monsoon (J)'. Regarding its fauna, the Pakistani coast is considered the western-most extent of the vast Indo-Polynesian province.
Ecological Zones and Agro-ecosystems Pakistan supports a wide array of ecosystems. However, any description of the natural ecological zones of Pakistan must be qualified by the statement that these zones have been so widely affected by human activity that very few truly natural habitats remain. To date, no systematic attempt has been made to define the ecological zones of Pakistan. Roberts (1991) has provided an initial classification of terrestrial ecosystems within 12 major vegetative zones (Fig. 2). These range from the permanent snowfields and cold deserts of the mountainous north to the arid sub-tropical zones of Sindh and
Figure 1: Map of Pakistan
Balochistan; from the dry temperate coniferous forests of the inner Himalayas to the tropical deciduous forests of the Himalayan foothills, the steppe forests of the Suleiman Range and the thorn forests of the Indus plains; and from the swamps and riverine communities of the Indus and its tributaries to the mangrove forests of the Indus delta and Arabian Sea coast.
The coast of Pakistan forms the northern boundary of the Arabian Sea, where oceanographic influences dominate over those of the continent, which is essentially a sub-tropical desert. The only major freshwater input comes from the Indus at the eastern extremity, which discharges some 200 km3 of water and 450 million tonnes of suspended sediment annually. This creates the Indus Cone, a 2,500 m deep pile of loose sediment on the floor of the Arabian Sea which fans away from the mouth of the river as a vast, sub-aqueous delta.
Coastal ecosystems include: numerous deltas and estuaries with extensive inter-tidal mudflats and their associated wetlands (the Indus Delta has an estimated 3,000 km2 of delta marshes); sandy beaches; rocky shores; mangroves (four species); and seagrasses (as yet not well described). The seas of Pakistan are the richest in phytoplankton and zooplankton in the Arabian Sea Region (Pernetta 1993).
Through the conversion of natural habitats to agricultural use, a number of distinct agro-ecosystems have been created in Pakistan. The 1992 Forestry Sector Master Plan identifies nine main agro-ecological zones. The irrigated plains of Pakistan constitute the largest irrigated system in the world. Here, agro-ecosystems have almost entirely replaced the original tropical thorn forests, swamps and riverain communities of the Indus plains.