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Wildlife dept to declare 15pc of ex-Fata protected area

Wildlife dept to declare 15pc of ex-Fata protected area

PESHAWAR: The wildlife department, which recently extended its jurisdiction to the newly- merged tribal districts, has planned to declare 15 per cent of the total territory of the defunct Fata as protected area to protect and utilise natural resources.

Officials told Dawn that the department was set to start its activities in merged districts from ‘zero level’ because the wildlife sector did not exist in the former Fata.

“The department is starting activities from zero level in merged districts and under the plan, at least 15 per cent area of the total territory will be declared as protected,” said an official, who deals with the conservation of natural resources in the province.

Officials say dept set to begin activities in merged districts from ‘zero level’

“All protected areas will be connected with each other through corridors. This will provide baseline for launching activities,” he said, adding that multiple surveys would be conducted in the next two years to explore biodiversity in the region.

Sources said the provincial government had allocated around Rs800 million, including Rs635 million, under the Tribal Decade Strategy to the wildlife department for the current financial year to be utilised for the protection and conservation of fauna.

Officials said after the release of funds, the department would hire expertise of the Federal Zoological Survey Department and Pakistan Museum of Natural History to conduct resource assessment survey to get data about reptiles, mammals and insects in the tribal region.

They said the department in second phase would conduct survey to understand social issues in respect of wildlife, protected areas and dependency of local communities on natural resources including wildlife.

In third phase survey for development of protected areas would be conducted and these areas would be connected through corridors.

“These surveys will provide direction for future planning for conservation of natural resources,” said one senior conservator, adding that initiating any activity without surveys would result in wastage of financial resources.

The defunct Fata which was merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018 spread over a reported area of 27,220 square kilometers. Over 20 departments and around 40 directorates have been extended to seven tribal districts. The region also serves the main route for migratory birds from Siberia to South Asia and back.

After extending its activities to the merged districts, the wildlife department formally took over three pheasantries in Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram districts and one at the Governor’s House in Peshawar. The forest department had set up pheasantries in the former Fata.

An amount of Rs60 million has been allocated in the annual development programme for the maintenance of four pheasantries.

Under the plan, four new pheasantries will be established in Orakzai, Khyber, North Waziristan and South Waziristan merged districts.

It is learnt that Rs113 million has already been spent in the name of conservation of fauna in the former Fata under the Sustainable Conservation of Wildlife project.

The total cost of the project was Rs120 million but it went up by Rs37 million under the revised estimates.

Conservators said major challenge for the department in the merged districts is public awareness of wildlife, ecotourism and implementation of the relevant laws.

The department has planned to conduct a programme to educate local communities about environment, conservation of natural resources and wildlife.

“Local communities may not familiar with conservation of natural resources and wildlife and therefore, the department will emphasise awareness instead of the enforcement of laws,” said an official, adding that education officers would be recruited to visit schools and colleges to educate youth about the importance biodiversity.

The department has requested the government to provide trained staff to be deputed in merged districts.

Under the plan, there will be one district forest officer (wildlife), one sub-DFO, one range officer, one deputy range officer and three watchers in every tribal district.

The department has also requested the government to provide double-cabin pickup trucks, jeeps and motorcycles for field visits of the staff.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2019

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