Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced two new high-altitude National Parks in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) spanning across an area of 3,600 square kilometers, which is almost 5 percent of the total area of GB.
These two national parks have been announced under the Prime Minister’s “Protected Areas Initiative.” The initiative aims to ensure the protection and preservation of Pakistan’s natural assets through designation and management as National Parks.
The newly notified “Himalaya National Park” and the “Nanga Parbat National Park” have unique ecological areas with rich high-altitude biodiversity as well as precious flora and fauna. The parks will also preserve the endangered wildlife native to the area, which includes snow leopards, Himalayan brown bear, Ladakh urial, ibex, markhors, and blue sheep.
The number of National Parks in the country was thirty in 2018. These parks were announced over 70 years and remained just paper parks. Currently, under this initiative, in merely eight months, the number of National Parks across all provinces has increased by 1.5 times. The initiative will also introduce community-based management regimes in all the parks.
In this regard, the PM also approved the formation of GB’s first “National Parks Service,” which he said will provide 5,000 green jobs to the youth in the province. The PM said that the Park Service Nighabaans will be trained and employed to manage the parks in GB as areas for biodiversity protection, safe habitats for wildlife preservation as well as for the promotion of nature-based eco-tourism.
With the announcement of these two National Parks, a globally unique “Nature Corridor” has also been formed, which traverses a high altitude area (over 10,000 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.
The PM was also briefed 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 to enhance its numbers.
According to reports, three female Ladakh urials were already present in the area, which is being fenced, and a male species is being trans-located from Bonji in GB. This will be the first experiment of its kind to save the Ladakh urial, which is endemic to only Pakistan and India and remains highly endangered.
SAPM, Malik Amin Aslam, who was accompanying the PM and briefed him, said that “this high-altitude ‘nature corridor’ is an initiative of high global significance.”
The PM also stated that the government will have “zero tolerance” towards the timber mafia and praised the work of the GB forests department under the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project. He approved the deployment of FC platoons, especially for the forest protection drive in GB.