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15 Jun 2021 | Transboundary Landscapes

World Environment Day 2021 celebrations with the Government of Pakistan and UNEP

Session on mountain ecosystem restoration draws attention to the HKH

Syed Muhammad Abubakar, Muhammad Ismail & Kanwal Waqar

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World Environment Day 2021 saw the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), a global mission to restore degraded terrestrial, aquatic, and marine areas, and help prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. (Photo: Jitendra Raj Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

We collaborated with the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to organize a special virtual session on mountain ecosystem restoration as part of the official World Environment Day (WED) 2021 celebrations organized by Pakistan, the global host this year. Our session covered restoration perspectives and approaches in the HKH and explored collaborative pathways for building ecosystem resilience.

The event – attended by more than 150 participants, including representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations, academia, research organizations, and the media – began with opening remarks from our Director General, Pema Gyamtsho, who highlighted Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change and environmental challenges, which pose serious threats to human health and life. He appreciated the efforts made by the Government of Pakistan towards ecosystem restoration and underlined other impactful works the government and ICIMOD have together been engaged in: REDD+ project with national and provincial governments; a shift towards cleaner brick kilns; the development of the Rangeland Policy for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2014) and the National Food Security Policy (2018); livelihood diversification and climate-smart interventions in the Upper Indus basin; and conservation and development projects in the Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape (HKPL) as part of the HKPL initiative. Gyamtsho assured that ICIMOD would continue to extend technical support to the Government of Pakistan.

Hon. Malik Amin Aslam Khan, Minister for Climate Change/Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in his keynote address said, “We need to get off from this war path that we have with nature at this time, and we need to make nature an ally as we move forward. This lesson is also coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, which is a crisis of an imbalance that occurred in our relationship with nature. Climate change and biodiversity loss are the manifestations of that imbalance that we need to correct, and we need to correct it now.”

Khan appreciated ICIMOD’s research work and referred to its landmark HKH Assessment report (2019), which calls for evidence-based decision making to safeguard the environment and advance peoples’ wellbeing. The minister also shared that Pakistan has embarked upon an ambitious afforestation programme to expand and restore the country’s forests through a drive it calls the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, which will restore over one million hectares of forests. The campaign includes restoring mangroves and other forests, as well as planting trees in urban settings, including schools, colleges, public parks and green belts.

The special session also involved a panel discussion, during which climate and ecosystem experts spoke about various ecosystem challenges in the HKH and possible solutions. The panelists called for a holistic approach to ecosystem restoration to address the common challenges at the regional and global levels. This approach needs to consider inter-dependency in terms of upstream and downstream linkages, water flows, and natural disasters, and the inter-relationships between different transboundary drivers of ecosystem degradation such as climate change, land-use change, and agriculture intensification.

The panelists highlighted the need for regional cooperation and exchange of good practices in community development, biodiversity conservation, and ecosystem management. They also suggested more research on equity, market-driven processes, and natural resource management for long-term mountain ecosystem conservation.

 

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