Serious Threats Concerning Global Ecological Sustainability Highlighted at UN-IM Day Observance at UNESCO-CIMR, Pakistan

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A gathering of officials, faculty, researchers, students and participants from the civil society concerned in eco-conservance, environmental sustainability and development, organized multidisciplinary awareness sessions to highlight the ‘Mountains’ Role in Eco-sustainability’ and conveyed an obvious message to public that resource depletion, food, energy and most important water dearth will be crucial in the future due to ever increasing climate change.

Every year, December 11---the “International Mountain Day” is designated by the United Nations General Assembly, and is celebrated each year with a different theme. This year, the theme was “Mountains---Key to a Sustainable Future”. It is realized thereby, that economic growth and poverty alleviation is highly associated with the sustainable use of mountainous areas.

Center for Integrated Mountain Research (CIMR) at University of the Punjab, Pakistan, celebrates International Mountain Day, 2013 with splendid zeal and profound dedication by organizing week’s long ‘Mountain Day Celebrations’ to promote the neglected task of sustainable mountain development.

The key objective of the collaborative effort concerning UN-IMD week was to disseminate experiences and work to relevant quarters.

During the week’s celebrations, participants commence to interact with local communities, officials and youth to enhance their understandings to address the real concerns. The mountain celebration week is aimed to highlight the need for integrated mountain conservation and watershed management with particular reference to mountain water resources and the mountains significance in food security and livelihoods and brought following key concerns into deliberations.

Climatic change has impact on water resources and would add a new stress to ecosystems and socio-economic conditions already affected by poverty, natural resources depletion, and unsustainable management practices.

The earth’s surface temperature has increased between 0.7 and 1.4 °F (0.39 and 0.78 °C) in the past 100 years. The estimated frozen water stores in Himalaya are only 1400 km³. Glaciers are best indicators of climate change. The melting of glaciers started in 1984 and the trend accelerated onwards. The year 2000 had experienced severe climate change conditions resulting in drought throughout the world especially in south Asia. The process of rising temperatures is continued and 1998 was the hottest year.

This is the critical time to give special attention to the mountain issues and challenges as the global environment is on stake and heading for more than 2º Celsius temperature and its repercussion for mountains will be disastrous. It is the most critical to tackle the growing impact of climate change in a broader perspective and incorporated action with UN environmental conventions.

On the other hand, mountain communities are in great need of local, regional and global support to take preventive measures, adapt and construct resilience to natural resource management and climate change. Simply handling the impacts are not enough.

Thus “it is dire need of the day to take action for prosperous, resilient, and sustainable mountains”, learnt the UN-IM Day’s celebration event at CIMR-PU.

A gathering of officials, faculty, students and participants from the civil society concerned in eco-conservance, environmental sustainability and development, organized multidisciplinary awareness sessions to highlight the ‘Mountains’ Role in Eco-sustainability’ and conveyed an obvious message to public that resource depletion, food, energy and most important water dearth will be crucial in the future due to ever increasing climate change.

The students and experts associated with CIMR programs dialoged with local communities in order to describe the developments of a resilient ecosystem that can improve the community’s' wellbeing.

A series of mountain-theme oriented awareness campaigns, documentaries, plantation, workshops, seminar, lectures, presentations and press releases would follow to draw awareness.

On continuum of the sessions, an assembly of geo-environmental experts, students, officials, and others attracted in mountain development, organized exciting and mind blowing presentations related to the mountain and its community followed by a the students of the mountains areas of Pakistan.

Under the aegis of UNESCO, the event of UN-IM day held at the University of Punjab. It was attended by several academicians including the Lt. Col. Mir Pervez Khurshid, Mr. B. A. Shakir, Dr. Ashraf Ch., Ms. Rehana, Ms. Rabia Faridi, Ms. Dua, Ms. Rabia Niazi and other researchers from different disciplines. Premeditated by director CIMR Dr. Khalida Khan, the UN-IMD’s scientific sessions were presided over by the principal prime theme-speaker Prof. Qadhi Aurangzeb Al Hafi.

In his keynote theme-lecture, Prof. Qadhi A. Z. Al-Hafi, accentuated on subsoil water toxicity hazards due to non eco-compatable sewage and drainage practices. The environment of the planet, in its totality, is on stake due to lethal vulnerabilities of under-ground water reserves and its repercussion for mountains would be disastrous”. Prof A. Z. Al Hafi’ also brought the critical issue of teratogenicity into the academia’s as well as public attention. He stressed the need to tackle the growing impact of inner and outer environmental toxicity, in a broader perspectives in compliance with UN environmental conventions.

UNESCO chair holder at P.U. Dr. Khalida Khan, Director CIMR said that mountain socio ecological and cultural landscapes are at present facing fast changes. The Chair highlighted the increased occurrence of floods, faster glaciers melting, insecurity of water availability, and extraordinary degradation of the entire mountain fragile landscape.    

It is high time to involve local mountainous communities in every aspect of development mitigation and preventive measures. It has been notice that these communities are mostly ignorant the efforts of the governments, researchers, and scientists to address climate change impacts. To raise awareness and to harmonize meticulous science with local field knowledge experts, researchers and governments must assure participation of the local communities.

Dr. Khalida Khan, also highlighted the role of academia and science in understanding the rising impacts of climate change at national, regional, sub regional and global scale and demand for lowland (Plain areas) countries and communities to join hand in adaptation measures in mountains. She also put emphasis on the significance of such theme-oriented awareness events. It is urgent to continue the drive cultivate at Rio+20 to more mountain interests in every global environmental conventions.

A documentary highlighting the development issues of mountainous areas of Pakistan along with an interactive sharing regarding Satoyama Initiative and sustainable development was piloted and steered at the University of Punjab, Pakistan.

The fast retreating glaciers in the HKH region is of great concern to Pakistan’s agro-economy. Glaciers are the perennial source of water supply to the Indus system. The climate change effect and increase of warm temperatures in the atmosphere are the main causes of glaciers fast melting and disappearing. Our rivers are in danger and may change into non-perennial streams in the near future. Advanced countries have prepared repeated glacier maps on 1:10,000 and 1:50,000 scales. The comparison of such maps easily shows the size and retreat of glaciers.

The extensive melt of glaciers (>50%) and climate change is the alarming bell for more devastation in the shape of water crisis, droughts, famines, great change in the ecology of flora and fauna. The average annual flow of Indus River from 1922 to 1961 was 93 MAF, which reduced to 48 MAF in 2001-02 which shows alarming reduction in the Indus river discharge.

Pakistan has an area of 3.3 million hectare covered by forests and planted trees, which is equivalent to 4.8% of the total land area. The forest resources of Pakistan are deteriorating both qualitatively and quantitatively. There is a serious threat of accelerated deforestation and forest degradation in many parts of the country in the wake of rising population and associated wood demands, weak governance of tenure, encroachments and land cover changes superimposed by adverse impacts of climate change.

In Pakistan, no such effort to address the challenges has been made by any agency because of non-availability of professional staff in the field of glaciology.

Center for Integrated Mountain Research is based in Lahore associated with a field station at Khanspur, Ayubia. It is a focal point to serve the national mountainous areas from north to south in particular, and regional the Hindu Kush-Himalayas and Karakorum in general.

The Center for Integrated Mountain Research (CIMR), University of the Punjab intends to take initiatives in this field to prepare glacier maps using Remote Sensing techniques and conduct field research for ground truth surveys and to produce trained manpower in the field of glaciological research.

CIMR is engaged in various activities in mountainous areas of Pakistan such as conservation of medicinal herbs and aromatic plants, ecotourism, rangeland conservation, biodiversity conservation, glacial studies, Geo-environmental challenges, socio-economic impact of climate change, and geographical information systems and remote sensing and of course Capacity building with special attention to community participation. Pakistan as one of the main partner of HKH region and famous as a water tower is exciting opportunity for exploring novel biodiversity and ecotourism. There is a great need to give awareness for an equilibrium approach linking conservation and development. Stability of fragile mountain ecosystems is very much linked with the globalization and climate change phenomenon that has great impact on the livelihoods of mountain people.

It is matter of great rectitude that considering the importance of CIMR objectives, UNESCO has established a Chair at PU that has opened various avenues for joint collaboration.

A collaborative activity with WAPDA CIMR has proposed to establish an area of work on “mountains and climate change” in view of the special attention needed by mountain ecosystems to adapt to the effect of climate change. Mountains provide vital goods and services to more than half of the world’s population but they are fragile ecosystems that require specific protection and management (UNFCC, Nairobi work program).”

This would enable the planners and all stake holders in understanding the trends of retreating glaciers and climate change in the HKH region.

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