KARACHI, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 15th Jun, 2017 ) - IUCN Country Representative, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema here on Thursday appreciated Government of Balochstan for issuing a notification designating The Astola Island as country's first-ever Marine Protected Area. Citing this to be a milestone, he said it is a first major policy step towards protection and conservation of the marine life. The Astola island is located approximately 25 km off the coast of Balochistan province, and is Pakistan's largest offshore island spanning 6.
7 km2. The island is ecologically important as its beaches provide nesting ground for the endangered green turtle and hawksbill turtle, while also supporting a large variety of migratory birds. Mentioning that the Astola saw-scaled viper is endemic to the island and due to the absence of a fresh water source it is treeless. while its vegetation consists of scrubs and large bushes. The island's marine ecology supports a variety of corals, creating a breeding ground fora vast range of marine species.
The target 11 of Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed by all Parties to the CBD in 2010 specifies that each Party has to declare at least 10% of its coastal and marine areas as Marine Protected Area, especially the areas of biodiversity significance and ecosystem services. Its declaration as marine protected area, said the conservationist was in accordance to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by UN General Assembly in September 2015 - that call for conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (SDG 14).
Cheema explained that in 2015, the National Coordinating Body (NCB) of Mangroves for the Future Pakistan headed by the Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan constituted a Working Group for identification of potential sites for MPA designation in Pakistan. Subsequently, a motion (# 055) submitted by a PNC member (Indus Earth) from Pakistan was adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 calling for declaration of Astola Island as MPA in Pakistan.
He also appreciated the role of the IUCN-MFF, the Ministry of Climate Change, the Government of Balochistan, Ministry of Defence, Pakistan Navy and other stakeholders have been working together towards having a marine protected area declared in the country. IUCN representative said Astola could not achieve the much needed status without the concerted efforts led by the Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, the Inspector General Forest and other senior officials under the policy guidance provided by the Federal Minister of Climate Change, Zahid Hamid.
He said the Minister had put tireless efforts towards building stakeholders consensus and completing volumes of very complex formalities to make this happen. The conservationist also appreciated Government of Balochistan, especially the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary, and the Secretary Forest & Wildlife Department and his team for their support to the cause. Cheema said the catalytic role played by IUCN Pakistan, and its team, especially the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme, for their continuous efforts towards this declaration can also never be overlooked. APP/rh/msk/ff