A consultative meeting of the relevant stakeholders of the Marine Protected Areas was held at the IUCN Country Office on July 06, 2017 to assess the potential marine protected areas. The representatives of the relevant stakeholders gathered to discuss and debate on designating the two potential sites as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – the Churna Islands and Miani Hor in Balochistan. Recently, the Government of Balochistan has declared Astola Island as Pakistan’s first ever marine protected area.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan welcomed the participants and congratulated Government of Balochistan for taking a pioneering step towards declaring the first ever Marine Protected Area, which has been very well received internationally. He also provided a background to the efforts towards declaring Astola Island as the first ever Marine Protected Area in Pakistan. He mentioned of the numerous extensive consultative workshops with government officials and relevant stakeholders before the declaration.
Mr. Cheema pointed out that some other good examples of protected areas also exist in Balochistan province such as the Khunjerab National Park and Hingol National Park, but still there is a lot of homework that needs to be done in terms of exploration, evaluation and legislation. He lauded an active role of all the stakeholders, especially Pakistan Navy, for their continued support in taking this first major policy step towards protection of our ecological frontiers by starting with Astola Island.
Mr. Moazzam Ali Khan, Expert WWF was of the view that even if all of the suggested sites are declared as marine protected areas that would still cover only around 3% of Pakistan’s marine area and there is a need to bring more areas under protection that are rich in biodiversity.
Dr. Agha Aijaz, Additional Secretary, Forest and Wildlife Department Government of Balochistan appreciated the role of IUCN and sought the technical guidance and support of IUCN Pakistan having the expertise as well as international reach. The Country Representative of IUCN Pakistan assured all the possible technical assistance of IUCN since it has a huge stake in protecting and conserving the nature in Pakistan.
Ms. Afia Salam proposed that public hearings should also be held on the protected areas declaration process so as to involve the environmentally concerned citizens too. This would encourage the engagement of the civil society in the environmental impact assessments.
At the conclusion of the meeting some of the stakeholders visited Somiani to discuss the proposition of Miani Hor as a Protected Area with the local community. During the visit they also observed the coastal erosion at Somiani coast.
Representative of the relevant stakeholders participated in the meeting were: Dr. Agha Aijaz, Additional Secretary Forest & Wildlife Department, Govt. of Balochistan; Cdre Masood Khurshid, HQs Coastal Command, Pakistan Navy; Ltd. Cdr Noorul Amin, Pakistan Navy, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan; Mr. Shahid Sahyeed Khan, Indus Earth Trust; Mr. Muhammad Moazzam Khan, WWF-Pakistan; Mr. Sharifuddin Baloch, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department, Syed Ali Imran, Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department; Dr. Hina Baig, National Institute of Oceanography; Ms. Afia Salam, Member, IUCN CEC Commission; Mr. Agha Tahir Aijaz, Sindh Forest and Wildlife Department, Government of Sindh.