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Knowledge-based proactive governance urged for ecosystems restoration 

ISLAMABAD, JUN 6 (DNA) – Speaking at a regional webinar on Sunday, the experts urged for governance reforms and integrated regional approaches towards identifying the challenges and threats confronting the ecosystems of the region from mountains to the coastal areas and deserts.

They said the governments have to increase public funding into the ecosystems conservation and repair of the degradation done. We need to tag a price to the ecosystem services so that the people who are the actual beneficiaries should know how valuable the ecosystems are for human life on earth.

They urged the citizens to change their lifestyle and reduce consumption of everything in their use as the production of every product cost a lot of natural resources. Population control is the other element that has to be controlled with immediate effect. Carbon emissions are the third factor contributing to the degradation of the environmental resources.

With changes to everyday lifestyle, we can help protect the planet and its ecosystems. Reduce or eliminate the use of household chemicals and pesticides that can hurt the environment. Harsh chemicals in typical store bought cleaners can get into the water supply and leak into ecosystems when disposed of. 

The Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) and DTN organized the regional webinar on the subject “Ecosystem Restoration – learning from the case studies” on Sunday. The panel of experts included Senior Scientific Advisor EVK2CNR Ashiq Ahmad Khan, ICIMOD (Nepal) Regional Programme Manager Dr. Ghulam Rasul, World Resources Institute (India) Chief Economist Dr. Madhu Verma, biodiversity expert from Maldives Selvam Rabindranath, Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed, and Research Fellow Desert Resource Centre (India) Tatsama Motilal.

Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed while introducing the subject said: Environmental degradation is going on unchecked in Pakistan that has turned to be a graveyard of policies sans implementation.

It is indeed a great movement that Pakistan hosted the international event of the World Environment Day while climate impact is rising and environmental degradation. Deforestation, change of land-use and implementation of policies and governance reforms. Countries need to look into the causes and community-based governance models for ecosystems. 

Dr. Ghulam Rasul said the climate change is fast impacting the mountain resources and habitats. Communities in mountain regions face unique challenges, including a fragile ecology, natural disasters, and long distances to markets, educational facilities, and healthcare as well as high unemployment. Tourism brings benefits and potentially novel risks. Many communities have aging populations with out-migration of youth. Communities adapt to these challenges with diverse strategies, including engagement with traditional ecological knowledge, history, and narratives valuing landscape and social relationships.

Ashiq Ahmad Khan said the main issue is governance. We need dedicated professionals and bureaucrats to work on it. We need to enhance understanding of mountain ecosystems and the conservation of its biological and cultural diversity, and sustainable development.

Ensure that mountain ecosystems are understood in relation to the communities who rely on them. For the ecosystems’ restoration, we need to generate knowledge and guidance that is respectful of existing traditional ecological knowledge systems and which emphasizes the centrality of local communities to successful ecosystem management. 

Dr. Madhu Verma, Chief Economist at the World Resources Institute, said India, who is basically an Ecological Economist, shared her experiences of working  on forest conservation in India in Uttarakhand Forest, Sixteen Tiger Reserves and 13th, 14th and 15th Finance Commissions of India. Through her estimates of forest resources valuation and incorporation of various indicators of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) both for degradation and conservation, she was able to inculcate this knowledge across the entire set of stakeholders, specially the policy makers.

 This led to the creation of economic instruments in India like estimates of Net Present Value (NPV) of forest diversion and appreciation of value of forest land as well. Further her work for various last three Finance Commissions of India, led to provisioning of incentives for forest conservation through grant initially and now allocation of 7.5 percent to 10 percent of total divisible pool of taxes to forestry sector of India to compensate for fiscal disabilities created for not diverting forest and for the provisioning of varied ecosystem services to the nation.

Selvam Ravindranath mentioned that Maldives enjoys one of the richest marine diversity anywhere in the world. The coral reefs of Maldives are the seventh largest in the world, representing about 5 percent of the global reef area. The Maldives 21.000 square kilometers of reefs are home to 250 species of coral, which team with more than 1.000 species of fishes.

This unique environment holds the economy of the nation, Fisheries and Tourism. The two largest industries mainly depended on the healthy and diverse marine ecosystem. The country was practiced with the traditional ecological conservation principles based on livelihood production. Over the course of time, it has neglected the natural environment, by placing long-term economic and environmental health in jeopardy. Biodiversity has often been taken for granted and environmental damages dismissed as a price worth paying for short-term profits.

Hence it is observed that protection of Maldives’ biodiversity is not only important for the country’s environmental health, it is also an economic and developmental imperative.

Tatsama Motilal said Deserts are, by far, amongst the most intriguing ecosystems. Often misunderstood and tagged as wastelands, deserts all over the world have long been misused for developmental functions not aligned with historic desert dynamics. Through highlighting the unique land, life and living of deserts, Desert Resource Centre is working towards restoring the niche ecological and traditional economic functions of these ecosystems.

We envision creating a global alliance that specifically caters to desert-centric issues. A Global Desert Partnership is being proposed on the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to increase recognition and priorities formation of customized action goals and parameters for hot and cold deserts of the world. In India, development of a Desert Restoration/Management Authority is needed to revive traditional crafts, agri-dairy value chains and pastoralism in the Thar Desert.=DNA

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