Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the two parks Himalaya National Park and Nanga Parbat National Park which cover nearly 3600 sq km in Gilgit-Baltistan. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Two new high-altitude national parks have been launched in Gilgit-Baltistan under the Protected Areas Initiative to improve the country’s forest cover, protect wildlife and address climate change threat.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, an environmentalist at heart, inaugurated the two parks - Himalaya National Park and Nanga Parbat National Park – that cover nearly 3,600 sq km (5 per cent) of Gilgit-Baltistan’s land area.

The high altitude area is rich in biodiversity and comprises of precious flora and fauna including the majestic snow leopards, Pakistan’s national animal Markhor, Himalayan brown bear, Ladakh urial, ibex and blue sheep.

The launch of two national parks has formed a globally unique nature corridor, traversing high altitude area of over 10,000 feet and connecting KP and AJK through Gilgit-Baltistan, said Advisor to PM on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, who accompanied the premier.

During the visit, Pakistani prime minister also announced reintroduction program to protect the endangered species especially Ladakh urial in the region. Ladakh urial, a medium-sized wild sheep, was once a common member of the fauna of northern Pakistan but is now considered endangered. Currently, there are only 150 Ladakh urial in the region, says GB Secretary Forest and Wildlife Shahid Zaman. PM was also briefed on the breeding enclosure being established in Skardu in the natural habitat to protect the animal and increase its population. It has been described as “the first experiment of its kind globally to save the Ladakh urial” from extinction in the region.

Green jobs

Under the initiative, Pakistan will be protecting nature while creating new jobs. PM Imran Khan also approved the formation of GB’s first national parks service that will provide 5000 green jobs to the people of the region. Youth “will be trained and employed to manage the parks in Gilgit-Baltistan for biodiversity protection, safe habitats for wildlife preservation as well as for promotion of nature based eco-tourism” the premier said.

Pakistan, this year in July, announced the creation of 15 national parks across the country under the ‘Protective Area Initiative’ to safeguard diverse range of habitats and benefit both nature and people.

The goal is to expand the protected area coverage to at least 15 per cent of the total land, covering over 7,300 sq km, encompassing the mountains in the north to the scrub forests in the plains and a marine protected area in the south. Almost 5,000 direct green jobs will be created for the youth to become nature guardians.

Pakistan has 398 notified protected areas whcih includes:

- 31 national parks

- 92 wildlife sanctuaries

- 97 game reserves

- 19 wetland reserves

- 160 community reserves

10 Billion Tree Tsunami

Pakistan launched the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation program in 2014 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with the goal to restore depleted forests and mitigate the effects of global warming.

After coming into power in 2018, PM Khan announced to replicate the success nationwide by planting 10 billion trees across Pakistan by 2023.