Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced two new high altitude national parks in Gilgit Baltistan spanning over 3,600 square kilometers of unique ecological area.
The prime minister announced the national parks during his brief visit here mainly to attend the oath taking ceremony of new Gilgit Baltistan (GB) cabinet where he also addressed and later chaired a briefing on the development of national parks and protection of endangered animals.
The two national parks have been announced under the Prime Minister’s “Protected Areas Initiative”, aimed at ensuring the protection and preservation of Pakistan’s natural assets through designation and management as national parks.
Comprising total 5% of Gilgit Baltistan land area, the newly notified “Himalaya National Park” and the “Nanga Parbat National Park” are very rich with high altitude biodiversity as well as precious flora and fauna of snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Ladakh Urial, Ibex, Markhor and Blue Sheep.
Previously the national parks in the country numbered 30 in 2018, which were announced over 70 years and just remained on paper only.
Now under the PM’s current initiative, in just eight months, the number of parks across all provinces was being taken to 45 – 50 percent increase. A proper community-based management regimes will be put in place in all of them.
In this regard, the prime minister also approved the formation of Gilgit Baltistan’s first “National Parks Service”, which, he said, would provide 5000 green jobs to the youth in the province.
He said the “Park Service Nigahbaans” (guards) would be trained and employed to manage the parks in Gilgit as areas for biodiversity protection, safe habitats for wildlife preservation as well as for the promotion of nature based eco-tourism.
Along with the announcement of the two national parks, a globally unique “Nature Corridor” has also been formed which traverses a high altitude area (over 10000 feet height) and connects the provinces of KPK and AJK through GB.
This will provide a protected and managed corridor for preserving the wildlife of the area including the iconic snow leopard and Pakistan’s national animal Markhor which are present in this area.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Malik Amin Aslam, briefing the prime minister, said the high altitude “nature corridor” was an initiative of high global significance.
The prime minister also got a briefing on the associated initiative to save the endangered Ladakh Urial for which a breeding enclosure is being established in Skardu in the natural habitat of this dwindling species in order to enhance its numbers.
For the purpose, three female Ladakh Urial are already present in the area, which is now being fenced and a male is being translocated from Bonji in the GB.
This will be the first experiment of its kind globally to save the Ladakh Urial which is endemic to only Pakistan and India and remains highly endangered.
The prime minister said the government would show “zero tolerance” towards timber mafia and praised the work of the GB Forest Department under the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project.
He also approved the deployment of Frontier Constabulary platoons specially for the forest protection drive in the GB.