The World Wetlands Day was celebrated by Ministry of Climate Change, IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Fatimah Jinnah Women University on the theme of the year as “Wetlands for Future: Sustainable Livelihoods”. Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb, Member National Assembly graced the event as Chief Guest. The event was participated by students of Fatimah Jinnah Women University, civil society and academia, International Partners including UN, ADB, EU and AKF.
Ms. Fauzia Malik, Manager IUCN Islamabad Programme welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of wetlands day celebration with the theme of 2016 focused on people’s livelihood associated with the health of wetlands. Students of Fatimah Jinnah Women University; Ms. Sana Anjum, Syeda Harim and Ms. Faiza Rafique presented their learning and research on wetlands in Pakistan. Dr. Abdul Majeed Water and Energy Expert of IUCN emphasized IUCN’s work on wetlands over the years and state of wetlands in Pakistan.
Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest encouraged the youth to equip and prepare themselves with knowledge for the future, as they are the ones to face it. He appreciated the interest of youth regarding wetlands. He highlighted that Pakistan is a land of ground water and we depend on it; while the Wetlands provide that ground water. However reduction in the fresh water of Wetlands due to un-sustainable practices, impacts the complete ecosystem. He emphasized the need of floodplain management towards recharging the ground water, land fertility and wetlands. He also highlighted that Pakistan is a country of 5 seasons including summer, winter, spring, fall and Monsoon; hence we need to take benefit of the flood water through floodplain management. Floodplain management involves the management of the people, land use and the environment. While talking about the wetland issues, he also mentioned that the introduction of Alien Invasive Species impact the health of the wetlands, be it the flora or fauna species.
Syed Mahmood Nasir further related the disappearing wetlands in Pakistan with the lack of any legislation on wetlands. He shared that the Pakistan Forest Policy that is under review, includes wetlands management policy as well; however this is yet to be approved. If it is approved, it may also be adopted by provinces also. He elaborated that in the absence of any legislation regarding wetlands, multiple authorities are mis-using the wetlands; where no authority is responsible for their management.
He shared from his experience that the planting of Populus euphratica if planted in deserts, can get the required water during flood season and survive through the drought season on that. He recommended that the Forest department should consider planting this specie in the areas that have flood and drought cycles.
He shared a common indicator of reduction in the Dragon flies due to lack of fresh water in the wetlands getting polluted. The dragon flies use to be abundant when there was abundant fresh water and they would eat mosquitoes, and keep environment healthy. Now much less Dragon Flies are seen that is a sign of less fresh water. Law of nature has to be followed. He also shared that Mangroves as the coastal forest, capture 5 times more carbon than any terrestrial ecosystems. He suggested land use zoning concept to be applied in every country. He suggested that the University students may base their research on the recommendations of Ramsar mission.
Mr. Suhail Awan Executive Director Human Resource Development Network emphasized that Universities and the Chamber of commerce may be linked so that the action oriented research can be produced.
Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb, Member National Assembly shared here experience on the wetlands programme that has been implemented successfully leaving a number of benchmarks. She highlighted importance of awareness raising and capacity building at various levels to those who do not have the knowledge on wetlands and their importance. She shared that wetlands programme coined the term wetlands for the first time in Pakistan. She appreciated the participation and interest of youth on wetlands and associated issues.
She emphasized the need for comprehensive capacity building of the stakeholders. She strongly recommended that sharing of knowledge, data and collaborated efforts is vital for all the organizations working on this aspect. She emphasized the need to follow a well thought and long term approach instead of short term project oriented approach.
She highlighted a key issue at the district management level or the implementation level is lack of awareness on such issues. She also suggested that multi-dimensional approach must be followed. Government at national and provincial level has to plan to engage the private sector by creating demand and research has to be become part of this.
Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb also highlighted that the Wetlands policy debate has to be taken up again in the parliament for approval. She also emphasized the role of International Partners by taking the national priorities ahead of the global priorities. The same has been followed where the parliamentary plans have been made accordingly on national priorities. She said that people in the government can not do anything alone; there is a big role of the civil society. She suggested that among the stakeholders, parliamentarians should always be included.
She stressed on the need for action oriented policies. She suggested that the ecosystem aspect has to be taken as priority. It has to now build on youth. She passed a message to the youth that they must always build their argument on facts. Awareness of the government and policy makers may be enhanced through pressure of public awareness. She appreciated the initiatives of Fatima Jinnah Women University and encouraging youth. She appreciated the MoCC, IUCN and FJWU for organizing this event.
Dr. Uzaira Rafiqe, Dean Environment Sciences, Fatima Jinnah Women University thanked the Chief Guest, speakers and participants, as well as MoCC and IUCN for joining together to organize this event.