Greater Thar to be declared as National Park

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IUCN, SECMC launch Sindh’s first comprehensive vulture survey report

By A B Arisar

ISLAMKOT: Federal Government on Friday announced they would declare “Greater Thar” as a national park in consultation with the Government of Sindh and all stakeholders. “The Ministry of Climate Change would work with Sindh Government to declare the greater Thar as a national park,” this was announced by Naheed Shah Durrani, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change during a webinar launch of a first-of-its-kind vulture status report on Sindh.

The launching ceremony was organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), Baanh Beli, and Sindh Wildlife Department, Government of Sindh. The vulture preservation project is being undertaken by SECMC in partnership with IUCN, Baanhn Beli, and Sindh Wildlife Department. It is pertinent to mention that the area “Greater Thar” encompasses districts of Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Khairpur, and Ghotki districts of Sindh.

According to a key finding of the report, a few species of the vulture populations are showing signs of an increase in the province despite some other vulture species still in decline, and apart from Tharparkar – long considered a stronghold of vultures – Khirthar National Park and its extended range up to Gorakh Hill too are now considered population habitat of these critically endangered birds in Sindh.

The ceremony was attended, amongst others, by the Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Ms. Naheed Shah Durrani; Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, CEO-SECMC, Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar, Founding President Baanhn Beli, and Conservator Wildlife Sindh Mr. Javed Ahmed Mahar. Other participants included renowned conservation experts, from Pakistan, India, the USA, UK, Nepal, and Thailand. Many representatives of the federal and provincial governments, NGOs, wildlife experts, and representatives also attended the event.

In her keynote address, Chief Guest Ms. Naheed Shah Durrani praised the project team for their tremendous efforts towards producing “this consolidated and comprehensive baseline report on vultures in Sindh, which is the first of its kind in the province.” Ms. Durrani asked the GoS to start preparing the concept on National Park in Tharparkar for which she assured full support of the Ministry of Climate Change.

This work also helps us create greater awareness amongst the people as well as in the government functionaries and communities, and eventually goes towards the improvement and survival of such precious habitats, she explained.

The survey team was led by Dr. Z.B. Mirza, a renowned world-class birds’ expert in Pakistan, along with Mr. Naveed Soomro from IUCN and Ms. Farwa Sharriff. At IUCN, the project is being managed by Mr. Naveed Soomro, himself a conservation expert, who has contributed immensely to the survey and the project.

In his presentation, Dr. Z. B. Mirza said that Tharparkar is a unique region, where four species of vultures are residents and three are migratory. He recommended that monitoring of vulture’s conservation should be started. He further said that awareness-raising among the residents is a must for making the efforts fruitful.

Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN Country Representative Pakistan said that the vulture population in Pakistan has steeply declined over the last 20 years or so, and accelerated and joint efforts are now underway to save these large, magnificent birds, from the many threats they have been facing.

Senator (Retired) Javed Jabbar said that vultures are disappearing because of the irrational use of a drug. He mentioned a horrific revelation of the survey result that only 15% of the stores are aware that the drug is dangerous for the vulture population.

Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, CEO-SECMC, noted that they, despite being a coal company, were all for preserving and conserving nature, and were trying to contribute, amongst other areas, to biodiversity conservation in Thar as well under SECMC’s exemplary CSR.

Mr. Javed Meher, Chief Conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department blamed that the “diclofenac sodium – a pain killer drug normally administered to livestock for the rapid vanishing of the vulture’s population in the country. He said that despite a ban since 2006 on the production and use of veterinary medicines containing diclofenac, the unauthorized use of the drug has continued with impunity, posing a major threat to this remarkable species.

Giving the vote of thanks, Mr. Naseer Memon, GM CSR, and Communications, at SECMC said torrential rains clearly points to the need to do more to fight climate change impacts which were also affecting biodiversity.

“And this requires stakeholders to collaborate for the betterment of our ecosystem, people, and such collaborations, involving both the development sector and the private sector, help us achieve good results on the ground,” he concluded.

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