ISLAMABAD: The inception workshop of GEF funded snow leopard project, ‘Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program’ (PSLEP) was held in a local hotel today. Inspector General Forests Ministry of Climate Change Syed Mahmood Nasir was the chief guest at the occasion. The event was jointly organized by Ministry of Climate Change, UNDP-Pakistan and Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF).

In his address, the chief guest emphasized on the conservation of snow leopards as snow leopard is symbol of healthy ecosystem. He further said that climate change is major threat for snow leopards as agricultural lands are shifting in high mountains due to fast melting of glaciers and snow. The chief guest also shared his views about nomads and their movement in winters. Nomads movement by foot causes damage to pastures and to stop this practice, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wildlife department does not allow them to move by foot and force them to move in trucks. He appreciated initiatives by Snow Leopard Foundation and other organizations of livestock vaccination and livestock insurance schemes to support the community.

Speaking at the event Country Director UNDP-Pakistan Mr. Ignacio Artaza emphasized on the wildlife conservation for snow leopard and brown bear which is crucial for ecosystem. Pakistan is home to many unique wildlife species he stated. UNDP and GEF supports a snow leopard habitat and ecosystem protection plan. We need to develop monitoring mechanism for snow leopard habitats. Best practices in wildlife conservation promotes innovations and positive impact. We are glad to be part of this project to save this unique and beautiful wildlife species, the PSLEP is a five years project and certainly will enhance the capacity and sustainability in project areas said the Country Director.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Nawaz Director Snow Leopard Foundation shared the project background, objectives, result framework and implementation plan with the participants. The prime objectives of the project are to promote Landscape Approach for Survival of Snow Leopard & its Prey Species by Reducing Threats & Applying Sustainable Land & Forest Management in Critical Habitats in Northern Pakistan. Dr. Ali also briefed the participants about the key challenges and barriers this project intends to address, these include inadequate capacity, knowledge & proven models for conserving snow leopard & wildlife species at a landscape level; inadequate representation & protection of important habitats, including forests, in existing protected area network; in sufficient economic incentives & alternatives to current practices of unsustainable land & forest use by local communities; and lack of awareness & skills necessary for wildlife monitoring, wildlife crime prevention & detection & effective conservation decision-making.

The annual work plan for 2018 was presented by Assistant Director Snow Leopard Foundation Mr. Jaffar Uddin and Mr. Usman Manzoor Programme Officer Environment and Climate Change Unit UNDP – Pakistan shared the project monitoring and evaluation concepts and mechanism. He also highlighted the project risk management and the guidelines to tackles those risks.

Mr. Ashiq Ahmad Khan in his vote of thanks predicted success of PSLEP project based on the fact that this is the first project on landscape level whereas the projects in past were restricted to small areas, and key stakeholders appear to be highly motivated.

The event presented a large gathering of officials from government and non-government organizations, corporate sector and educational institutions.  Senior officials from the three snow leopard provinces/state (Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir) appreciated the initiative and assured full support in implementation.

Courtesy: Pamir Times