This year, the World Environment Day 2024 was marked by significant global efforts to promote environmental restoration and sustainability. IUCN Pakistan celebrated this day by inaugurating two ecotourism sites in Gilgit-Baltistan, located in northern Pakistan. Aiming to blend conservation with community development, these sites at Minapin and Ghulkin valleys feature cultural and architectural restorations. This inauguration of these sites highlights the potential of ecotourism to boost local economies while preserving the region's natural beauty and heritage.

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Launch event of eco-tourism site at Ghulking valley, Hunza

Photo: IUCN Pakistan

IUCN Pakistan, with the support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and Embassy of Italy in Pakistan under the Biodiversity Safeguarding Project has launched the following pilot initiatives to promote ecotourism at Minapin and Ghulkin valleys. 

The community managed ecotourism initiative at Minapin valley, district Nagar includes a 200-year-old heritage settlement with four houses and a visitor information centre. In addition, four traditional water flour mills, each 200 years old, have been renovated and restored to working order. To engage the youth and provide alternative livelihood opportunities, three rock climbing pitches of varying difficulty levels have been established for the tourists. Further, a dedicated website has been launched as part of this initiative. 

A similar initiative at Ghulkin valley, district Hunza includes restoration of 900-year-old heritage house to promote tourism, local cuisine and local culture. A visitor information centre has been established as part of the old heritage house. A website highlighting tourism destinations of this valley has also been launched. 

Additionally the four multi-purpose biodiversity corridors have been inaugurated at the Khunjerab National Park, located in the extreme north of Pakistan. The inauguration of the corridors underscores the commitment of the Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), AICS and IUCN to safeguarding biodiversity and promoting sustainable development in the region. The multi-purpose biodiversity corridors, located at Tourqan, Furzeen Dour, Arbab Kuk, and Kuksil, in the Khunjerab National Park provide essential habitats for wildlife and promote ecological connectivity.

Mr Ghulam Muhammad, Senior Minister of Food and Tourism, Government of Gilgit Baltistan noted in his keynote speech that “conserving natural habitats in Khunjerab National Park is crucial for the survival of its diverse wildlife. This park, located in the rugged Karakoram Mountains, provides a sanctuary for endangered species such as the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, and Himalayan ibex. These newly built multi-purpose biodiversity corridors will play a key role in free movement of the wildlife along the Khunjerab river.”

At the inauguration ceremony, Mr Francesco Zatta, Head of Office, AICS Islamabad emphasised the significance of international cooperation in tackling environmental challenges. He stated that "this initiative represents a crucial step in our joint efforts to protect the unique biodiversity of Khunjerab National Park. It embodies the collaborative spirit between Italy and Pakistan in advancing environmental sustainability.”

Mr Mahmood Akthar Cheema, IUCN Pakistan Country Representative, underscored the potential impact of the project on local communities and ecosystems, stating, "These biodiversity corridors will not only improve habitat connectivity but also support the livelihoods of local communities through ecotourism and sustainable management of natural resources. The project represents a comprehensive conservation approach that mutually benefits nature and people."

The corridors aim to protect and restore critical habitats, ensuring the survival of endangered species while promoting sustainable land use practices. The project aligns with global environmental goals and demonstrates a model for biodiversity conservation that integrates community participation and ecological resilience.
These initiatives were undertaken in coordination with the Community Welfare Foundation, Minapin, Ghulkin Local Agency for Development (GLAD), Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), the local Tourism department and Forest, Wildlife and Environment department of the Government of Gilgit Baltistan.

For more information, please contact:
Mr Hammad Saeed
Manager, Communications and Knowledge Management
IUCN Pakistan, Islamabad Country Office
Cell. +92 307 7773801