PESHAWAR: The billion-tree forest cover enlargement as an afforestation project of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has increased the arrival’s frequency of migratory birds in the country besides providing a natural habitat to rare wildlife species.
“The arrival of Houbara bustard, a precious migratory bird, has increased in Pakistan from Central Asian Republics (CARs) including Mongolia, Siberia due to availability of a large variety of flora plants, insects and weeds in KP,” Environment, Forests and Wildlife Department Provincial Minister Syed Ishtiaq Urmar told APP here on Sunday.
Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), a flagship project of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government, has immensely helped in increasing the province’s forest area from 20.3 per cent in 2013 to 26.6 per cent in 2017.
“The houbara can’t stay in extremely cold temperatures and Pakistan’s climate is suitable for them during winter season,’ he said while adding that all arid areas in Pakistan including DI Khan, D.G Khan, and Rahimyar Khan are included in the bird’s winter habitats where sufficient flora, insects and weeds are now available for its breading.
The houbara is very sensitive and does not use a route for a second time if it senses any danger on the way during the first journey.
In case the houbara loses its mate, the endangered species takes three to five years to find a new one.
The whole population of these birds travels in groups having a chieftain. These groups are guided to the destination by a deputy bird in case the chieftain is lost.
Ishtiaq Urmar said that the government had adopted a comprehensive strategy to conserve and protect wildlife and migratory birds which is why five more national parks were being established at Kumrat, Anso Lake, Satara Nand in Manshera and Palas Kohistan under the BTAP plan.
“Six national parks at Saiful Mulk Manshera, Nathia Gali, Ayubia, Lalusir and Chitral Gol have already been established with a focus on wildlife conservation,” he added.
He said that the government had adopted a zero tolerance against illegal hunting, poaching and trapping of wildlife animals and migratory birds, including the endangered Asian houbara and falcons.
“I have set seven falcons free at Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI) after they were recovered from an alleged smuggler at Bacha Khan International Airport on last Wednesday and handed him a Rs0.3 million fine,” he informed.
He said that a ban had strict action would be taken against elements involved in the trade and illegal hunting of birds and animals in the area.
The minister informed that over 600,000 hectares of forests had been restored in KP during the last five years and added that the new forest at Ghari Chandan at Peshawar would help in protecting and conserving wildlife and migratory birds.
He said that Peshawar Zoo was being made better and precious animals like the zebra, giraffe, tigers and lions had been brought to the facility, while efforts to bring elephants from a foreign country were ongoing.
He offered technical expertise to provinces including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) for planting ten billion saplings under the ‘Plant for Pakistan’ project during the next five years.
Minister Syed Ishtiaq said that BTAP was being extended to recently merged tribal districts to achieve the target of planting an additional one billion saplings in KP under Plant for Pakistan.
He further said that PFI’s 40-year old curriculum at Peshawar had been updated with modern requirements and two years of extensive professional educational training for trainee forest officers of all provinces, including Azad Kashmir.
“An environmental tribunal has been established at Peshawar to take up environmental and population-related cases. In addition, an operation against unlawful crushing machines, marble factories and brick kilns would also commence soon,” he concluded.
GOVT ALLOCATES RS2 BN TO PROMOTE FORESTRY IN GB
The federal government has allocated two billion rupees for promoting forestry activities in Gilgit-Baltistan, besides involving local communities in the Green Pakistan Programme (GPP).
Sources at the Climate Change Division (CCD) on Sunday said that Rs5.2 million have been earmarked for capacity building and awareness campaigns.
Other projects include Habitat Development and Pasture Management for Wildlife Conservation, Livestock Insurance Schemes, Vaccination Campaigns and Breed Improvement, and Community Mobilisation for Wildlife Protection.