Conservation of Biological Diversity

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Pakistan has the privilege of having some of the world’s rarest plants and animals because it is an intermediary area between Palearctic, Oriental and Ethopian zoogeographical zones. Pakistan is a state with rapid variations in altitude that affect wildlife and vegetation.

In the northern hilly places, endangered snow leopard lives which is well-known for its dotted skin and survival abilities. In south region, the Indus Dolphin is a rife creature which is also facing threat of survival because of the construction along the Indus river. Waterfowl population stopovers the Indus wetlands in winter season and the Indus flyway is internationally considered the fourth key bird migration path. Kut, a rare plant type, is widespread in the alpine regions. Our country has another important medicinal plant that is used as a cardiac stimulant and a cure for hay fever and bronchial asthma.

Pakistan has an extensive antiquity of human settlements. Mohenjodaro and Harrapa present signs of early societies from 300 BC. Mankind survived in relative biological harmony until the commencement of the 20th century but human development has had a deleterious impact on the ecosystem in current years. Many kinds of animals and plants that were common at the start of century have vanished.

In last 50 years, a rapid increase in population has been observed and a large area of land has been cleared for agriculture, industries and human settlements. The waters of the Indus and its tributaries have been tapped because of the construction of dams and irrigation systems. Actions have been taken to control the flooding in monsoon season and it has caused the reductions of thorn scrub, riverine bayous and forested parts in the flood plain. A large number of animals and plants are in danger because of the pollution, loss of habitat and over usage.

In Pakistan, initiatives have been taken to conserve the species and control the loss in this domain but this mechanism is not much effective in protecting the ecosystems. A collaborative conservation strategy has been formulated as a combined effort of our country’s government and the World Conservation Union.

Though, the protection of the biological legacy of Pakistan is possible only by involving the local people and preserving their natural resources with the help of a sustainable consumption program. These programs can only be reinforced by spreading awareness, education and information regarding importance of biological diversity. A sense of stewardship must be provided to the local people by encouraging them to sustain a healthy environment.

It is worth mentioning that the notion of an international convention on bio-diversity was conceived at a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988. The subsequent year, the Ad Hoc Working Group of Technical and Legal Experts was established for the drafting of a legal text which addressed the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as well as the sharing of benefits arising from their utilization with sovereign states and local communities. In 1991, an intergovernmental negotiating committee was established, tasked with finalizing the convention’s text.

A Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1992, and its conclusions were distilled in the Nairobi Fund Act. The Convention’s text was opened for signature on 5 June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”). By its closing date, 4 June 1993, the convention had received 168 signatures. It entered into force on 29 December 1993.

The convention also offers decision-makers guidance based on the precautionary principle which demands that where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. The Convention acknowledges that substantial investments are required to conserve biological diversity. It argues, however, that conservation will bring us significant environmental, economic and social benefits in return.

Published in The Asian Telegraph on November 20th, 2018.

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