IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change, Federal Flood Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Serena Hotels, celebrated the World Water Day and the International Day of Forests as a combined event, at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad on March 22, 2019. The theme for the days, this year were “Water for all – leaving no one behind” and “Forests and Education” respectively.
The celebrations were attended by the senior representatives of the federal and provincial government departments, international development partners, United Nation Agencies, Diplomatic Missions, Government ministries academia, the private sector, as well as the media and environment experts. All the speakers appreciated IUCN in taking lead to organize and convene the partners and participants together at this important and informative event to share technical information and exchange of ideas and initiatives.
In his remarks the Chief Guest, H.E. Mr. Malik Amin Aslam, Advisor to Prime Minister on Climate Change, Government of Pakistan showed concern over the decreasing forest cover in Pakistan and shared the programmes and projects initiated by the government in addressing this. He added that Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government made commendable efforts to increase the forest cover in province from 22% to 26 %. The efforts for afforestation were rejuvenated through the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Initiative which also engaged the communities while bringing the partners on board to turn it into great success of forest conservation and revival of ecosystems. While sharing efforts in various parts of the country, he added that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has stopped cutting trees for timber to conserve the existing forest. Punjab province is trying to recover the lost forest cover on priority basis. The federal and provincial governments are pushing the land mafia back to save the cultivable land and forest cover. Government is transforming the recovered land in Punjab into the forest plantations with high political will. Most recent example is the plantation exercise carried out on 2500 acres of recovered land in Balloki. On the state of water quality he quoted recent reports that reflect deterioration and the dwindling ground water reserves and polluted aquifers. Solid waste and sewage management are high priority areas for the Ministry of Climate Change. The ministry is considering for direct interventions of solid waste management in Islamabad and Gwadar.
While appreciating IUCN’s efforts over the years, he emphasized on the nature based solutions to revive the ecosystems. He also appreciated the convening power of IUCN to bring all the key stakeholders together through this join event of International Forest Day and World Water Day.
Syed Nazar Hussain Shah, Secretary Forest, Environment and Wildlife Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, laid emphasis on the need to arrange such events as they create awareness for all stakeholders and most importantly, generate understanding amongst the common people in the remotest of villages. He emphasized on the law enforcement by the Government on the land and timber mafia that has caused absolute degradation of all ecosystems. He highlighted that the landmark Billion Tree Project has increased the forest cover significantly in just 3 years. Ten people lost their lives for the noble cause of forest conservation which led to the community taking ownership of the forests. He informed that one lac five hundred and 43 acres of land is recovered from timber and land grabbing mafia by the department and used for planned plantation.
Secretary Public Health, government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Behramand Khan launched the report on Technical Studies of Water Resources in FATA. The report has been developed with the funding of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Pakistan under their project titled “Step Up for Institutionalization of Environmental Governance in FATA”. Key findings of the report reflect the essential issues of water quality, inequitable water resource and water resource management. If these are addressed, the quality of life can be improved in the province. He highlighted that population explosion is a big issue in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that is causing a decrease in per capita water availability. Industrial pollution is another contributor for environmental degradation. Need is to enforce National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQs). Report reflects that chemical pollution is minimal in FATA but the ground water is depleting. Huge resources are required to divert the available surface for to use. The focus must be building policies, plans, regulations and ensuring their implementation so that the dream of water for all should be full-filled and no one is left behind.
While discussing National Water Policy and its implementation, Mr. Ahmed Kamal, Chairman Federal Flood Commission (FFC), Ministry of Water Resources, Government of Pakistan appreciated the refined irrigation practices. Ministry of Water Resources has issued orders for the development of a National Implementation Cell for National Water Policy which is presently under the Federal Flood Commission as a secretariat. To establish national harmony National Water Council will notify the civil society organizations as its members to make useful contributions towards the management of water resources and this will be operational by April 2019.
Mr. Farrukh Toirov, Deputy FAO Representative Pakistan expressed the importance to educate ourselves about the importance of natural resources, in particular, forests and water. Fully aligned with the development priorities of the government of Pakistan, we look forward to seeing an increasing number of Pakistani men, women and youth using natural resources more wisely with time, to support sustainable agriculture development and to be a critical part of our joint efforts for a hunger and malnutrition- free Pakistan.
Mr. Ahsan Tayyab expressed his remarks on behalf of Ms. Xiaohong Yang, Country Head, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Pakistan and highlighted the active role of ADB in water sector by providing 3.74 Billion dollars through loan and technical assistance. ADB is planning investment proposals for building new dams in Balochistan. The future priority of ADB is the implementation of National Water Policy and to continue a dialogue with government and development partners for betterment of Pakistan.
While sharing his remarks, Mr. Patphamuthu Illangovan, Country Director, The World Bank, stressed upon the importance of forest cover to result in good water catchment. Pakistan can improve water productivity by translating good policies into actions. He congratulated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Initiative.
Mr. Neil Buhne, UN Resident Coordinator Pakistan stressed on SDG 6 that deals with water, SDG 15 that focuses on life on land, fundamentally targets the forests. SDG 13 which is Climate, SDG 10 focuses on inequality and access. He congratulated the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for taking the afforestation initiative that became an example for rest of the country. He shared the statistics of child mortality in Pakistan which is 53,300 children die every year because of water borne diseases. United Nations in Pakistan is helping government of Pakistan to achieve its sustainability goals. He acknowledged the great partnership between UN and IUCN over many years in Pakistan. He also highlighted that all the great initiatives in the sector have been piloted by IUCN.
H.E. Ms. Margaret Adamson, High Commissioner of Australia shared the experience of Australia in Water Management. There is a wide array of partners and bodies who are aware of these critical issues of forest and water conservation. Forest management is very critical and provides reliable flow of quality water. Forest protection is more about the oxygen which trees provide and serves as the carbon sink. Sustainability of agricultural productivity is required in which Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a trendsetter. Pakistan is sending a very positive image to establish a better trajectory for its forest cover leading to a sustainable future for Pakistan. She appreciated the National Water Policy as a landmark policy for Pakistan. She highlighted that globally 2.1 billion people are still living without access to safe water and 4.1 billion people live without access to appropriate sanitation facilities.
H.E. Mr. Thomas Kolly, The Ambassador of Switzerland in Pakistan as Guest of Honor addressed the water resource as being the most vital for life. The need for clean, affordable and accessible water for all is most essential. For this purpose Swiss government is increasing its funding to Pakistan through SDC, which already has a presence in Pakistan for the last 50 years. He thanked IUCN for taking this initiative and bringing all the key stakeholders together on one platform.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Cheema re-emphasized the key points from the technical studies conducted on Water governance and Sustainable Forest Management by IUCN in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. He appreciated the achievements through the modest financial support of SDC in this regards.
While facilitating the event, Ms. Fauzia Bilqis Malik, Manager IUCN Islamabad Office shared about the Pakistan Water Gateway that IUCN had initiated to share the available knowledge on water. She also shared that IUCN Pakistan look forward to lunch a platform on water where all the agencies can connect and share their experiences at provincial and federal level.
Mr. Aziz Boolani, Chief Executive Officer, South & Central Asia, Tourism Promotion Services Ltd., Serena Hotels presented a vote of thanks and reflected upon the commitment of Serena Hotels about their environmentally sustainable business. He also congratulated the speakers for enlightening the audience about the key topics. He shared that through the long term MoU between Serena Hotels and IUCN, they look forward to continue taking joint initiatives.
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