IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change and the Serena Hotel, celebrated the World Water Day and the International Day of Forests, at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad on April 4, 2018.
The themes for the days this year were “Water and Nature” and “Forests and Sustainable Cities”. The event was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Climate Change, international organizations, government agencies, academia, the private sector, as well as the media and environment experts.
While representing Mr. Mushahid ullah Khan, Federal Minister Climate Change, Ms. Romina Khurshid Alam, Parliamentary Secretary and Member of National Assembly in her remarks emphasized the importance of forests in human life, forests’ threats, issues and suggestions to mitigate threats to the national forest cover.
On behalf of the honourable Federal Minister for Climate Change, Mr. Mushahid Ullah, Federal Secretary Environment Ministry of Climate Change Mr. Khizar Hayat Khan also explained that “due to the loss of forest cover in the watersheds, the flow and quality of water has been reducing, giving rise to trans-boundary and riparian issues.” Being an agri-based country, he continued, the economic loss is imminent due to reduction in the water flow. “To reverse this situation we need to take drastic measures to increase the forest cover in the water sheds and rangelands,” he added. He further said that the situation was so dire that government alone would not be able to tackle it, and require external assistance. “The role of each and every citizen is very important, as well as that of NGOs who are already contributing to increasing the forest cover in the country.”
In the welcome address, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema Country Representative IUCN Pakistan quoted a recent study of drinking water quality conducted by IUCN Pakistan in the FATA region that 97% samples were found unsafe mainly due to the presence of microbiological contaminations. Only 3% sources were found safe for drinking purpose. He proposed that the concept of water treatment through chlorination must be adopted at the government level. Mr. Cheema shared that IUCN has been working with both government and civil society in Pakistan since over 30 years, with a view to develop nature based solutions to address these issues while spreading environmental awareness. IUCN’s achievements include getting Juniper Forests in Ziarat declared as a Man and the Biosphere Reserves, pioneer to work on mangroves conservation and rehabilitation through regional initiative Mangroves for the Future (MFF) Programme. IUCN works in partnership with the private sector to offset the impacts of their operations on the natural resources and ecosystems and to arrest the sea intrusion. IUCN Pakistan has implemented several projects on water issues as the prime focus.
Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest, Ministry of Climate Change said that “Pakistan needs to design urban forests that may result in a temperature reduction of 8-10 degree centigrade”. Sheikh Amir Waheed, President Chamber of Commerce Islamabad, suggested the need for increased afforestation in country and further emphasized that the government should promote private sector investment in natural resource management. Mr. Ahmed Kamal, Chairman Federal Flood Commission, Government of Pakistan reflected on flood plains management and National Water Policy. Mr. Neil Buhne, UN Resident Coordinator Pakistan said that Pakistan is focusing on UN Agenda 2030 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 11,13 and 15. Pakistan is trying its best to address the water challenges. Ms. Xiaohong Yang, Country Head, Asian Development Bank Pakistan mentioned in her remarks that Pakistan is in the list of top effected countries by extreme weather conditions. The Green House Gas Emissions are getting doubled in two years and by year 2050 it will increase upto 14 times. FAO Country Representative Pakistan, Ms. Mina Dowlatchahi said “For ensuring food security and sustainable development in Pakistan, it is important to take note of the nexus between food security, forests and water. There is a need for concerted and coordinated action to help conserve natural resources and protect our eco-systems”. Ms. Ayesha Wafa Khan of Serena Hotel presented a vote of thanks and reflected upon the commitment of Serena Hotels about their environmentally sustainable business.
Representatives of embassies, donors, international organizations, government agencies including UN, FAO, ADB, Embassy of Netherlands, GIK Institute, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce, Federal Flood Commission and academia joined IUCN and Ministry of Climate Change participated at the event. While presenting the global situation, facts and figures about the importance and issues of water usage and water scarcity, the audience were also briefed about the possible solutions to overcome these.
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