Two new high-altitude national parks in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) covering an area of 3,600 square kilometres, which is almost 5% of the total area of GB, have been declared by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Under the “Protected Areas Initiative” of the Prime Minister, these two national parks have been declared. The initiative aims to ensure the security and preservation of the natural assets of Pakistan through classification and management as national parks.
The newly declared ‘Himalaya National Park’ and the ‘Nanga Parbat National Park’ have special ecological regions with rich biodiversity at high altitudes, as well as precious flora and fauna. The parks will also maintain the region’s endangered species, including Snow leopards, Himalayan brown bear, Ladakh urial, Ibex, Markhors, and Blue sheep.
The country’s number of national parks in 2018 was thirty. More than 70 years ago, these parks were declared and remained just paper parks. Currently, under this programme, the number of National Parks in all provinces has risen by 1.5 times in just eight months. In all the parks, the project would also incorporate community-based management regimes.
In this respect, the PM also approved the establishment of GB’s first National Parks Service, which he said would provide 5,000 green jobs for the province’s youth. The PM suggested that the Nighabaans Park Service will be trained and hired to maintain the GB parks as areas for the conservation of biodiversity, protected environments for the preservation of wildlife and for the promotion of eco-tourism based on nature.
A globally unique ‘Nature Corridor’ has also been developed with the announcement of these two National Parks, which crosses a high altitude area (over 10,000 feet high) and connects the provinces of KPK and AJK via GB. This will include a protected and controlled corridor for the protection of the region’s wildlife, including the iconic snow leopard and the national Markhor animal of Pakistan, which are present in the area.
The PM was also briefed on the associated initiative to save the endangered Urial Ladakh, for which a breeding enclosure is being built in Skardu to enhance its numbers in the natural habitat of this declining species.
There have already been three female Ladakh urials reportedly present in the area being fenced, and a male species is being translocated from Bonji in GB. The Ladakh urial, which is native to only Pakistan and India and remains highly endangered, will be the first experiment of its kind to save it.
The PM also claimed that the government would have “zero tolerance” towards the timber mafia and praised the work under the “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project of the GB forests department. He has approved the deployment of FC platoons, in particular for the GB forest protection push.