It is a matter of great pride and pleasure for us all that Pakistan is hosting the World Environment Day this year in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ministry of Climate Change.
This year’s theme for the World Environment Day is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ which focuses on resetting our relation with nature. It will also mark the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030. As a host of the World Environment Day, Pakistan will highlight environmental issues and showcase the country’s own initiatives and its contribution to the global efforts to address climate change.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years from 2021 to 2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations together with the support of partners. It aims at reviving hundreds of millions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. The UN Decade aims at massively scaling up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems to fight the climate crisis, prevent the loss of a million species and enhance food security, water supply and livelihoods.
The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to playing a leadership role in addressing the issue of climate change through its various mega initiatives amongst them is the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative, which will restore and enhance over 1 million hectares of forest across the country.
Recently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan launched the Protected Area Initiative to develop 15 model protected areas across the country to conserve over 7,300 sq km of land area, which is an important step towards the restoration of our unique ecosystems in the country.
As part of the World Environment Day, IUCN Pakistan with the support of UNEP and in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and IUCN Pakistan National Committee Members is organizing a series of events in all provinces of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir for highlighting the importance of ecosystem restoration. International organizations, government departments, non-governmental organizations, private sector partners and academic institutes in the country will also join hands with us in these events. The IUCN Members have committed to organizing events in all the provinces.
In the past, IUCN Pakistan had also been instrumental in getting notified a number of protected areas across Pakistan including the Astola Island declared as Pakistan’s first Marine Protected Area. IUCN Pakistan facilitated the process of bringing together all the stakeholders that included: the federal Ministry of Climate Change; Government of Balochistan; Pakistan Navy; National Institute of Oceanography; WWF-Pakistan; Indus Earth Trust; and Sindh Forest and Wildlife Department. Further collaborative efforts are under way for bringing more areas under Protected Areas’ regime for effective management of existing protected areas. In addition, IUCN Pakistan is planning to work closely with the Ministry of Climate Change and provinces to establish National Parks Service and green listing of the Protected Areas.
In collaboration with the Forest and Wildlife Department, Government of Balochistan, IUCN Pakistan also initiated the process of designating the Juniper Forest Ecosystem as UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Reserves. The designating process was led by IUCN Pakistan under its UNDP funded project titled: Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Juniper Forest Ecosystem Production with UNESCO Pakistan’s financial support under One UN Programme in consultation with all the stakeholders, local communities and other relevant government departments.
IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Platform started off with its first chapter at the Port Qasim Area, in collaboration with top-notch private sector companies in Karachi for ecosystems restoration. It has in its short duration launched a million mangroves plantation initiative, engaged businesses to provide their feedback on environmental degradation in the PQA area with a view to environmental betterment, and carried out exposure visits. This is a promising initiative meant to encourage businesses to invest in ecosystems restoration and sustainable development.
IUCN has been promoting Nature Based Solutions and follows its standards. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy and so on and so forth which is perfectly matching with this year’s theme of “Ecosystem Restoration”
Every year, on June 05, we celebrate the day to renew our resolve and commitment to the betterment of the environment and nature, but this year it is even more important as it is the first ever opportunity for Pakistan to host a mega global event. I am confident that with this global commitment Pakistan will lead the world in the restoration of ecosystems by example.
Mahmood Akhtar Cheema
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)1 Bath Island Road, Karachi 75530, Pakistan