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Pakistan - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Pakistan has a great variety of landscapes. While riverine forests grow along the banks of rivers, mangrove forests are found in the Indus delta as well as along the coast, and corals have been discovered along the Baluchistan coast. There are mountain ranges along the western border with Afghanistan, and sandy deserts along the eastern border with India. The vegetation is dry (with over 90% of the country classified under dry and sub-humid lands as defined by CBD) and sub-humid land comprised of xerophytic shrubs and small trees, grasslands and steppe. This variation in relief and climate has bestowed Pakistan with rich biodiversity and many ecosystems, habitats and species of global significance. Pakistan has 195 mammal species (6 being endemic), 668 bird species (25 being endangered), 177 reptile species (13 being endemic), 22 amphibians (9 being endemic), 198 fresh water fishes (29 being endemic) and 5,000 species of invertebrates, as well as 5,700 species of flowering plants (over 400 being endemic). Moreover, Pakistan is rich in indigenous crop diversity with an estimated 3,000 taxa and around 500 wild relatives of crops. While the Indian subcontinent was the first to domesticate cattle, water buffalo and chicken, Pakistan has two breeds of buffalo, eight of cattle, one yak, 25 goat, 28 sheep, one horse, four camels and three poultry breeds.

However, this biological diversity is now declining due to human activities and the degradation of natural habitats. Regional case studies present a growing body of evidence of an impending national disaster. In the upland coniferous forests, for example, a systematic study of the Siran area in the Hazara Division, revealed a 52% decline in forest resources between 1967 and 1992. Similar trends have been observed in some other forest areas of the country, to the extent that it is now feared that Pakistan is experiencing the world’s second highest rate of deforestation. In particular, the mangrove forests of the Indus Delta, which constitute the largest arid zone mangrove forests in the world, are now quickly disappearing. In the last 20 years, mangrove cover has been halved from 2,600 square kilometers in the late 1970s to 1,300 square kilometers in the mid-1990s. This destruction is leading to the wholesale disappearance of trees, shrubs and ground flora, together with the vertebrate and invertebrate fauna they normally support. According to Pakistan’s third national report, 20 mammal species, 25 bird species, 6 types of reptiles, 5 types of fish and 8 marine mollusks are presently threatened, but these figures are likely to be underestimated due to lack of data and financial capacity to conduct research.

Pakistan’s fish- and fishery-related sector engages one percent of Pakistan’s population and generates one percent of Pakistan’s GDP earnings through the export of fishery products overseas. During the July 2003 to March 2004 period, 101,256 million tons (valued at 7.9 billion rupees) of fish and fishery products were exported to Japan, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Middle East, Sri Lanka, China, etc. In particular, the total landings for small pelagics, large pelagics, demersal fish and shellfish in 2003 accounted for 566,203 million tons.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The major threats to terrestrial ecosystems are from overgrazing and deforestation due to high population pressure and increasing poverty. The diversion of water for irrigation has adversely impacted the ecology of mangrove and riparian ecosystems. Game birds and animals are heavily hunted while fisheries from inland and marine ecosystems are harvested to the full limit (with pressure increasing in parallel with population growth). In addition, agrobiodiversity has suffered serious erosion due to the introduction of higher yielding varieties and the use of agrochemicals. Finally, pollution and disposal of untreated sewage and industrial effluent into the rivers and seas are major threats to aquatic and marine biodiversity.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Pakistan completed a Biodiversity Action Plan in the year 2000, which became a de facto biodiversity policy instrument for the country. The BAP has been a useful document and provided overall guidance and reference material. However, progress on its implementation has been less than satisfactory. Implementation mechanisms were not put in place until 2006 when a Biodiversity Secretariat was established within the Ministry of Environment. The Secretariat lacked capacity and resources and failed to develop an effective coordination mechanism for BAP implementation at national and provincial levels. A Biodiversity Working Group was constituted but has only held two meetings (capacity and financial constraints did not permit this advisory body to contribute more towards implementation of the BAP and address new and emerging issues). Biodiversity steering committees were constituted in all provinces, but have remained dormant. Nevertheless, a large number of actions recommended by the BAP have been partially implemented.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

While it has still not reached the threshold level necessary for making significant progress on CBD implementation, Pakistan has already made reasonable progress towards the achievement of the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Milestones include the establishment of a protected areas system including almost all major habitats and ecosystems and covering more than 10% of the country’s area. Pakistan has designated 23 national parks, 97 game sanctuaries and 104 game reserves, yet a protected areas system review carried out in 2000 revealed that many of the areas did not meet the international criteria for protected areas (58 were considered to be in accordance with IUCN criteria whereas 169 PAs were considered to have been established mainly to control hunting). A number of botanical gardens and herbaria have been established in various universities and government departments (e.g. Pakistan Forest Institute, Karakorum Agriculture Institute for the Gilgit-Baltistan Area) for ex situ conservation. Moreover, management of at least six national parks is being integrated into the broader landscape and local communities are actively involved in planning processes. Although there has been no assessment of protected areas to determine biodiversity status and management effectiveness so far, the conservation status of some endangered and threatened species of fauna (ungulates, endemic reptiles, brown bear, black bear) was reported to have improved, largely through the efforts of local communities and conservation NGOs. In particular, the population of ungulates has significantly increased in conservation areas managed for trophy hunting by local communities.

While the natural resources outside of the protected or community conservation areas are deteriorating rapidly and threaten the integrity of the ecosystems and livelihoods of the people, watershed and soil conservation programs have resulted in some good progress being made to control soil erosion in the catchment areas of large dams. Improvements have been reported regarding the sustainable use of water for irrigation, including measures such as the lining of water courses to reduce conveyance losses and introduction of drip irrigation.

There is a growing realization of the necessity to develop adaptation and mitigation measures to deal with the impact of climate change. Pakistan has made some efforts to align with international legislation concerned with biodiversity. A National Biosafety Centre has notably been established to facilitate implementation of the Cartagena Protocol, along with national biosafety guidelines to regulate genetically modified organisms. Awareness campaigns have improved the understanding of the importance of biodiversity and have led to broader engagement across society in implementation activities. Significant progress has been made in the mobilization of national and international financial resources for implementing the Convention. However, there is no strategic plan for meeting future needs.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Conservation concerns in Pakistan were first addressed in the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) approved in 1992. The NCS was followed by the formulation of provincial conservation strategies that have been prepared for all provinces.

While the Biodiversity Secretariat, which was to be the essential vector for BAP implementation, did not make any direct efforts to guide the implementing agencies in planning and implementation of the actions recommended in the BAP, it still undertook several awareness raising campaigns, promoted environmental education, made contributions to strategic planning, policy formulation and to legislative reforms in relevant sectors. It is moreover playing an important role in influencing policy and financial decisions. Incorporation of the conservation agenda into the “Vision 2030 and Strategy for Forest Biodiversity” and allocation of funds in five-year plans are just two such examples.

Nowadays, and despite a lack of adequate capacity, there is increasing awareness among planners and policy-makers about the Convention which is resulting in biodiversity concerns being gradually addressed in various sectoral policies and programs. For instance, the Ministry of Education has incorporated biodiversity concepts in the curricula of all high school grades; drafts for agriculture and livestock policies are being formulated which include biodiversity concerns; Fisheries Policy (2006) calls for the sustainable harvest, establishment of protected areas and rehabilitation of marine environments damaged by pollution; and the forestry sector has launched large-scale projects to rehabilitate degraded forest ecosystems.

In terms of financial support, Pakistan received GEF grants for three large-scale projects covering mountains, protected areas and wetlands. In addition, two medium-scale projects for conservation of the Juniper ecosystem and species and habitats in drylands are presently under implementation. Pakistan also received GEF funding for a small grants program for biodiversity and forests.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The institutional mechanism for implementation of the Biodiversity Action Plan has remained weak. Implementation progress has also suffered due to a lack of adequate human and financial resources. Consequently, a monitoring and reporting system has not been developed. However, some existing research and data collection tools can be used to assess improvements in terms of species conservation. To cite a few examples, systematic collection and documentation of flora began in 1968 and an annotated catalogue of vascular plants was published in 1970, with Pakistan’s flora also being available in an electronic database maintained by the Missouri Botanical Gardens (eflor.org). Finally, a new institution (Center for Biodiversity Conservation) for undertaking advance research and studies in the field of biological and environmental matters came into existence on 24 December 2009.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme