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How should Pakistan tackle its biodiversity crisis?

By Laura Brown - 25 May 2011 12:12:0 GMT
How should Pakistan tackle its biodiversity crisis?

At perhaps a slower pace than might have been expected in the west, this week Pakistan's government highlighted the importance of biodiversity.

The country's Environment Minister, Wajid Ali Khan, marked International Biodiversity day by announcing a renewed effort on behalf of the government to raise awareness and support sustainability.

At a seminar in Peshawar, the government outlined their commitment to protecting threatened species.

In front of the Wildlife Department, Environment Protection Agency and Forest and Fisheries Department, Khan spoke of the need to give serious consideration to issues that affect biodiversity and the earth, including habitat loss, deforestation, pollution and global warming.

Raising awareness amongst the population of their responsibility to use more natural resources was key, Khan said and also promised financial support for departments protecting the environment.

''If these issues are not given serious consideration'', he argued, ''we would not only create problems for our coming generation, but also for ourselves'.

Yet Pakistan is a country amidst a development, energy and sustainability crisis. Often in the headlines in the west for the wrong reasons, in fact the country's population is growing rapidly, and the government is struggling to keep up.

A few days after Wajid Ali Khan's speech, across Peshawar another discussion was being held. 

Civil society groups are criticising the current trend in development in Pakistan for having little or no regard for the environment. Architects, heritage experts and social groups came together for the seminar.

Representatives from the Peshawar Development Authority, Environmental Protection Agency and other government departments were invited but did not attend.

Key examples were highlighted, showing how the desire to widen roads and reduce traffic chaos in Pakistan is causing untold damage on the country's cultural heritage and landscape. The Lahore Canal Road, one speaker argued, is being expanded. Thousands of trees are being cut down to make way for the development.

Dr Saluhaddin of the Gandhara Hindko Board, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Hindkowan culture, spoke of the failed bid at auction to protect a 200 year old banyan tree, felled in Hashtagri to make way for a new development. The government's policy, he said, is lop-sided, as city's a re made uglier in the name of development as their cultural heritage is destroyed.

Image Banyan Tree: Credit © Vlorzor