Effort to end global illegal ivory trade urged

NAIROBI/ISLAMABAD: On a fact-finding mission to Kenya, film actress Li Bingbing–one of China’s most popular celebrities and a rising Hollywood star–has urged greater effort by governments and consumers to combat illegal wildlife trade.

Li Bingbing said citizens and the business community in Asia can play a crucial role in preventing the illegal killing of elephants in Africa by saying no to ivory products.  The major recent spike in elephant killings–now at their highest levels in around a decade–is threatening the future of some elephant populations and the livelihoods of millions of people linked to tourism.

The visit marks the first overseas engagement for Li Bingbing, recently named ‘Asian Star of the Year’ by Variety magazine, in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). A dedicated environmental campaigner, Li Bingbing founded the L.O.V.E Green Movement in 2009 which encourages Chinese citizens to adopt resource-efficient, low-carbon lifestyles. She has extensively promoted the Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint campaign by UNEP and partners across social media networks in China. The campaign aims to reduce food waste and food loss worldwide. 

Earlier today, Li Bingbing visited the renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust near Nairobi, where young elephants, many of whom have been orphaned due to poaching, are cared for and often returned to the wild.

“The current poaching crisis raises major concerns about the survival of elephants and rhinos here in Kenya,” said Li Bingbing during a press conference at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

“But there are also other, far-reaching impacts. Illegal killings of elephants are being linked to organized crime and the funding of armed militia groups. Many consumers in Asia do not realize that by buying ivory, they are playing a role in the illegal wildlife trade and its serious consequences. As global citizens, we need to take responsibility by learning more about the potential impacts of our lifestyle choices,” she added.

A regular on red carpets from Hollywood to Cannes, Li Bingbing is among the most recognized faces in China and counts over 20 million followers on Chinese social media networks among her many fans. She has starred in a number of high-profile English-language films, including the most recent installment of the hit ‘Resident Evil’ series and ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

Rise in Illegal Killing of Elephants 

In the past decade, the number of elephants illegally killed in Africa has doubled, while the ivory trade has tripled, according to a recent study by UNEP and partners, Elephants in the Dust.

Data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) monitoring programme ‘Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants’ (MIKE), shows that 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011. MIKE covers areas home to around 40 per cent of African elephants, meaning the true figures may well be even higher. Indications are that the number of elephants killed in 2012 ran into the tens of thousands.

In Cameroon, up to 450 elephants were killed early last year. Profits from poached ivory are believed by some experts to be supporting armed conflict in the region.

Demand for illegal ivory remains highest in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, particularly China. Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have doubled since 2009. Weak governance in source, transit and destination countries is also contributing to the problem.

“Rising wildlife crime in Kenya and other parts of Africa is an issue of global concern, impacting many regions of the world. Profits from the high price of elephant ivory and rhino horn are being linked to criminal networks involved in the illegal drugs trade, illegal logging, and human trafficking according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“UNEP, CITES and partners are working together to improve collaboration between customs, police forces and national governments to tackle this black market.  But illegal wildlife trade can only be eradicated if the demand for products disappears. Li Bingbing’s work to highlight the multiple costs of illegal trade can reach millions of consumers, and encourage sustainable choices    that can support the survival of Africa’s elephants,” added Mr. Steiner.

UNEP recently signed an agreement with the city of Shanghai–home to 23 million people–to display a series of photographs in the underground rail network highlighting illegal wildlife trade. The images by seven leading international wildlife photographers will draw attention to the black market in elephant ivory, rhino horn, skins, fins and flowers, which is threatening the survival of many endangered species.

A film, Elephant in the Room, produced in partnership with CITES, will be displayed in Shanghai’s main city square. The film traces the origins of an ornament made from illegally-sourced ivory and ends with the tagline, ‘when we stop buying, they stop dying’.

In a joint effort by UNEP and the NGO Save the Elephants, Li Bingbing will travel to the Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya this week, where she will meet with wildlife experts and visit sites where elephants have recently been killed by poachers.

“An excessive demand for ivory is at the root of the rise in the illegal killing of elephants, and attempts to save them will fail unless this is tackled,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Save the Elephants.

“Appetite for ivory can be changed, as it was in the US, Europe and Japan. The reality of what is happening to elephants in Africa must be communicated–such as through the work of Li Bingbing and other celebrities–in ivory consumer countries. If it is not, the outlook for elephants looks very bleak,” he added.

“With the current trend of elephant poaching for ivory across its range, there is a risk of sending elephants to extinction,” said Patrick Omondi, Head of Species Conservation and Management at the Kenya Wildlife Service.

“Global citizens need to come together to fight this internationally organized wildlife crime. A clear strategy on demand reduction in consumer states will go along way in saving the African elephants,” he added.
Besides illegal killings, elephants are also threatened by the increasing loss of habitat in around 29 per cent of their range areas – primarily as a result of human population growth and agricultural expansion. According to the Elephants in the Dustreport, this figure could rise to 63 per cent by 2050, posing a major additional threat to the long-term survival of the species.

Global Illegal Wildlife Crime

The World Wildlife Fund estimates the global illicit trade in wildlife to be worth at least US$19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

Reptiles, sharks, great apes, and certain timber species are among the flora and fauna most affected by illegal wildlife trade.

A recent UNEP study showed that almost 3,000 live great apes are being taken from the forests of Africa and Southeast Asia each year. The main markets for the illegal trade in chimpanzees, gorillas and organutans include the tourist entertainment industry, disreputable zoos, and individuals who wish to buy great apes as exotic pets.

Research by UNEP and INTERPOL estimates that between 50 to 90 per cent of logging in key tropical countries of the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia is being carried out by organized crime. This is threatening attempts to reduce deforestation as well as efforts to combat climate change under initiatives such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD or REDD+).

Despite ongoing challenges, positive steps are being taken to tackle environmental crime and ensure sustainable trade.

During the recent Conference of the Parties to CITES held in March 2013, some 170 government backed moves to afford increased protection status to hundreds of timber species, certain tortoises and turtles, and other plant and animal species. Five shark species and manta rays were also brought under CITES controls.

Other actions include the establishment of Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) – a recent consortium of forests and climate initiatives that aims to combat illegal logging and organized forest crime. The project is led by the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme and the UNEP’s collaborative centre in Norway (GRID-Arendal), with support from the Government of Norway.

The story published first in Lahore Times on May 6, 2013

Weblink: http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/05/06/effort-to-end-global-illegal-ivory-trade-urged/

Year 2012 among top ten warmest years: WMO

GENEVA/ISLAMABAD: The World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the Status of the Global Climate says that 2012 joined the ten previous years as one of the warmest — at ninth place — on record despite the cooling influence of a La Niña episode early in the year, according to a WMO report released last weekend.

The 2012 global land and ocean surface temperature during January–December 2012 is estimated to be 0.45°C (±0.11°C) above the 1961–1990 average of 14.0°C. This is the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850 and the 27th consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961–1990 average, according to the statement. The years 2001–2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record.

“Although the rate of warming varies from year to year due to natural variability caused by the El Niño cycle, volcanic eruptions and other phenomena, the sustained warming of the lower atmosphere is a worrisome sign,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “The continued upward trend in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and the consequent increased radiative forcing of the Earth’s atmosphere confirm that the warming will continue,” he said.

“The record loss of Arctic sea ice in August-September — 18% less than the previous record low of 2007 of 4.17 million km2 — was also a disturbing sign of climate change,” said Mr Jarraud. “The year 2012 saw many other extremes as well, such as droughts and tropical cyclones. Natural climate variability has always resulted in such extremes, but the physical characteristics of extreme weather and climate events are being increasingly shaped by climate change,” he said.

“For example, because global sea levels are now about 20 cm higher than they were in 1880, storms such as Hurricane Sandy are bringing more coastal flooding than they would have otherwise,” said Mr Jarraud.

WMO’s annual statements gather the key climate events of each year. The series stands today as an internationally rec­ognized authoritative source of information about temperatures, precipitation, extreme events, tropical cyclones, and sea ice extent. The newly released statement provided in-depth analysis of regional trends as part of a WMO drive to provide more information at regional and national levels to support adaptation to climate variability and change.

The 2012 climate assessment, the most detailed to date, will inform discussion at WMO’s Executive Council meeting (15-23 May 2013).

Above-average temperatures were observed during 2012 across most of the globe’s land surface areas, most notably North America, southern Europe, western Russia, parts of northern Africa and southern South America. Nonetheless, cooler-than-average conditions were observed across Alaska, parts of northern and eastern Australia, and central Asia.

Precipitation across the globe was slightly above the 1961-1990 long-term average.  There were drier-than-average conditions across much of the central United States, northern Mexico, northeastern Brazil, central Russia, and south-central Australia. Wetter-than-average conditions were present across northern Europe, western Africa, north-central Argentina, western Alaska, and most of northern China.

Snow cover extent in North America during the 2011/2012 winter was below average, resulting in the fourth smallest winter snow cover extent on record, according to data from the Global Snow Laboratory. This was in marked contrast to the previous two winters (2009/2010 and 2010/2011), which had the largest and third largest snow cover extent, respectively, since records began in 1966.

Meanwhile, the Eurasian continent snow cover extent during the winter was above average, resulting in the fourth largest snow cover extent on record. Overall, the northern hemisphere snow cover extent was above average – 590000 km2 above the average of 45.2 million km2 – and was the fourteenth largest snow cover extent on record.

Greenland ice sheet: In early July, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted dramatically, with an estimated 97 per cent of the ice sheet surface having thawed in mid-July. This was the largest melt extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. During the summer it is typical to observe nearly half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melt naturally, particularly across the lower elevations. However, in 2012 a high-pressure system brought warmer-than-average conditions to Greenland, which are associated with the rapid melting.

Arctic sea ice extent reached its record lowest level in its annual cycle on 16 September at 3.41 million km2. This value broke the previous record low set on 18 September 2007 by 18 per cent. It was 49 per cent or nearly 3.3 million km2 below the 1979–2000 average minimum. The difference between the maximum Arctic sea-ice extent on 20 March and the lowest minimum extent on 16 September was 11.83 million km2 – the largest seasonal sea-ice extent loss in the 34-year satellite record.

Antarctic sea-ice extent in March was the fourth largest on record at 5.0 million km2 or 16.0 per cent above the 1979–2000 average. During its growth season, the Antarctic sea-ice extent reached its maximum extent since records began in 1979 on 26 September, at 19.4 million km2. This value surpassed the previous maximum sea-ice extent record of 19.36 million km2 set on 21 September 2006.

Extreme Events: Hurricane Sandy killed close to 100 people and caused major destruction in the Caribbean and tens of billions of US dollars in damage and around 130 deaths in the eastern United States of America. Typhoon Bopha, the deadliest tropical cyclone of the year, hit the Philippines – twice – in December. During the year, the United States and south-eastern Europe experienced extreme drought conditions, while West Africa was severely hit by extreme flooding. The populations of Europe, northern Africa and Asia were acutely affected by extreme cold and snow conditions. Severe flooding occurred in Pakistan or a third consecutive year.

Climate change is aggravating naturally occurring climate variability and has become a source of uncertainty for climate-sensitive economic sectors like agriculture and energy.

“It is vital that we continue to invest in the observations and research that will improve our knowledge about climate variability and climate change,” said Mr Jarraud.

“We need to understand how much of the extra heat captured by greenhouse gases is being stored in the oceans and the consequences this brings in terms of ocean acidification and other impacts. We need to know more about the temporary cooling effects of pollution and other aerosols emitted into the atmosphere. We also need a better understanding of the changing behaviour of extreme weather and climate events as a consequence of global warming, as well as the need to assist countries in the most affected areas to better manage climate-related risks with improved climate early warning and climate watch systems,” said Mr Jarraud.

The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), adopted by the Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress in 2012, now provides the necessary global platform to inform decision-making for climate adaptation through enhanced climate information.

The story published first in Lahore Times on May 6, 2013

Weblink: http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/05/06/year-2012-among-top-ten-warmest-years-wmo/

Cross-border collaboration can help improve conservation, spur uplift in South Asia

KATHMANDU/ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development have joined hands to put a regional framework in place for cooperation on important transboundary landscapes, said a media release.

Recognizing the global and regional significance of transboundary landscapes, the Government of Nepal through its Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation has been working closely with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and partner institutions from Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal to facilitate the development of a regional cooperation framework for developing Transboundary Landscape Conservation and Development Initiatives.

Cooperation across borders for the management of landscapes will help preserve the Hindu Kush Himalayan region’s unique biological diversity, valuable ecosystem goods and services, and value-based cultural and natural heritage while enhancing livelihood opportunities of the local communities of the most revered and sacred transboundary landscapes in the world, namely Kailash and Kangchenjunga.

In this context and for future cooperation in other landscapes, the Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel, and the Director General of ICIMOD, Dr. David Molden, signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in an official function held today at Hotel Himalaya. Prior to the ceremony, MoFSC held the 2nd National Coordination Committee Meeting for Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative, in which several key decisions were taken for the implementation of the programme on ground.

This MoU envisages areas and modalities of cooperation based on the understanding reached and broad areas identified for focusing the collaboration by both parties.

The implementation of this MoU will be effected through agreements with key Nepalese institutions that share the common vision of long-term conservation initiatives based on regional transboundary cooperation and ecosystem management approaches.

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative is the pioneer programme supported by UK Aid and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through German International Cooperation (GIZ).

This initiative will go a long way in forging transnational cooperation between China, India, and Nepal by proactively engaging them in ensuring the sustained management of ecosystem services and protecting the welfare of millions of people living both upstream and downstream.

The story published first in Lahore Times on May 3, 2013.

Weblink: http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/05/03/cross-border-collaboration-can-help-improve-conservation-spur-uplift-in-south-asia/

ICIMOD, MoFSC launch near real-time forest fire alert system

Kathmandu/ISLAMABAD: An operational remote sensing-based forest fire detection and monitoring system for Nepal was officially launched today by the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) during a regional policy workshop at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) headquarters in Kathmandu.

The system, which was piloted in Nepal over the last year, uses active fire data generated by ICIMOD’s MODIS receiving station for near real-time detection of forest fires.

The system is also equipped with an automated alert system, which sends email and SMS notifications to subscribers, including District Forest Officers and focal persons of the Federation of Community Forestry Users in all 75 districts.

The system is the first of its kind in the region, and ICIMOD is planning to implement similar systems in other countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

Over the three-day workshop, 30 senior officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan joined experts from the United States Forest Service, NASA, and SERVIR-Himalaya – an initiative at ICIMOD supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and NASA – to receive a two-day technical training on operational forest fire detection and monitoring systems equipped with SMS and email alerts.

The training was followed by a day-long discussion on policy, which helped identify gaps in technology, capacity and policy in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and foster regional cooperation for improving forest fire management. The workshop was organized by ICIMOD under the SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative in close collaboration with United States Forest Service (USFS). It was supported by USAID and the US Department of State.

Dr. KC Poudel, Secretary of MoFSC, emphasized the importance of the workshop, and the need to develop forest adaptation strategies under changing climate scenarios that evaluate available mitigation and adaptation options and identify policies and instruments to support adaptation.

“Changing climate scenarios call for different approaches to forest resource management. The technology and know-how on geospatial support systems that ICIMOD and its partners have shared with the Ministry and other relevant departments will play a major role in improving the management of Nepal’s valuable forest resources,” Poudel said.

“The US Forest Service is pleased to participate in the workshop and share geospatial technology experiences with the countries of the HKH region. Despite differences in geography and culture we share many of the same needs for robust geospatial solutions. The result is responsive and sound forest fire management’ said Brian Schwind, Director USFS Remote Sensing Application Center.

“This workshop is an important step in strengthening the capability of countries in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region to better manage forest fires. ICIMOD is excited to be involved in developing and sharing innovative geospatial systems to provide timely reporting of forest fire incidence in the region along with the support and technical collaboration of USAID, NASA the US Forest Service, and the US Department of State,” said Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Director of Programme Operations at ICIMOD.

In addition, ICIMOD announced that the 2010 Nepal Land Cover Database will be made available to the public for validation through a crowd-sourcing application on the Centre’s online Mountain GeoPortal. Basanta Shrestha, Regional Programme Manager of the Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) programme at ICIMOD, said.

“As part of regional land cover mapping at ICIMOD, the 2010 Nepal land cover database will provide the basis for natural resources accounting at the national level”. ICIMOD has completed land cover mapping and change assessments in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Pakistan as well.

Dr. MSR Murthy, Geospatial Solutions Theme Leader at ICIMOD, said, “With validation from its end users, the interactive mapping system will serve as an important information asset in the natural resource sector”.

The story first published in Lahore Times on April 12, 2013.

Weblink: http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/04/12/icimod-mofsc-launch-near-real-time-forest-fire-alert-system/

Survival of the fittest: Teaching disaster resilience in Pakistan

Teaching disaster resilience in schools is critical for empowering school childrenhttp://epaper.dawn.com/2013/01/13/stories/13_01_2013_430_001.jpg with the knowledge and skills required to enable them to prevent, prepare, respond and recover when facing hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones, storms, droughts, heatwaves, landslides, tsunami and volcano eruptions, etc.

Promoting disaster resilience education is important in Pakistan, which is highly vulnerable to climate-induced natural disasters. For people need to know how to better prepare for a possible disaster.

Empowering school children with strategies that will help them cope with disasters is also a way of indirectly influencing families and communities. Children are a motivational reservoir, who encourage their family members to act. They connect families with community.

Well-educated students lay the foundation for a community of future adults who have a resilient mindset to risk and stressors — one of the major objectives of disaster resilience education.

It is a fact that disasters are a ‘local’ phenomenon. Local communities are on the frontlines of both the immediate impact of a disaster, and an initial, quick emergency response is essential to save lives and avoid damages. Therefore, it is relevant that we aim our energies on building local communities’ resilience capacities to respond to natural hazards in a timely and effective manner.

“Disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster resilience (DR) can effectively be started in our schools, places of work and worship, and throughout our local communities. It is here where we will either shield lives or lose them,” says Mahmood Alam, former federal secretary of the climate change ministry. “For maximum impact, these DRR and disaster resilience capacity building programmes [at all levels] should be rooted in indigenous knowledge and communicated far and wide. So that everyone, from local schoolchildren to a village grandmothers to the municipal mayors, know how to better protect themselves from nature’s vicissitudes.”

Promoting disaster resilience education at all levels is of paramount importance for communities to survive during disaster times as is the sharing of experience within and among communities.

Equally important, disaster risk managers also need to listen and learn from the grassroots up — not vice versa. It will help them build upon examples of the risk reduction, which have been tried and tested in local experiences.

Any disaster risk reduction and resilience capacity building programmes aimed for awareness raising should focus on three key objectives to succeed, which are: raise community awareness of hazards and disaster risks; promote understanding of hazards and communities’ vulnerabilities; and help communities enhance their capacities to address their vulnerabilities.

With children representing over a third of disaster victims, the humanitarian sector cannot confine children’s role in disasters to that of passive victims.

However, providing children with the opportunity to directly get involved in DRR and resilience building activities provides them an enabling-environment to develop skills to respond to any threat on their own.

Furthermore, the emphasis on rights-based approaches to humanitarian work brings forward the right of children and youth to be protected from hazards and vulnerabilities through their participation in decision-making and efforts to address disaster management and risk reduction.

Suggestions have come from different stakeholders at workshops, seminars on disaster resilience matters (organised by the National Disaster Management Authority in different towns, cities of the country) for inclusion of disaster preparedness, resilience aspects into educational curricula.

“We are seriously considering such disaster mitigation suggestions, recommendations and are in touch with relevant education policy makers for inclusion of disaster preparedness, resilience lessons in school curricula, which will also comprise interactive trainings, drills and capacity-building sessions for school children,” says Dr Zafar Qadir, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

He said that NDMA is also advocating at the political level to adopt disaster as a subject in the curriculum. He stresses that all stakeholders should play their role in creating awareness on disaster risk management at all levels.

Dr Qadir says that Pakistan has been declared one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters for the next couple of decades. So there is a serious need to prepare the country to deal with the calamities in the future with focused interventions, which will help avoid massive damages and mortality.

“To achieve this, much needs to be done to make our schools a secure place not only for the children but for the community as well. Besides, it is equally important that schools are made a safe haven for the community. Besides, teachers should be trained in a manner that they can play their part in providing immediate relief to the community in case of any disaster,” the NDMA chairman points out.

Developing a national school safety strategy and integrating disaster risk reduction in the national curriculum is a need of the hour, says Sattar Zangejo, a disaster management expert, who has been involved in disaster management programmes of Plan International, Ofxam International, Unicef and United Nations Development Programme in the disaster-prone areas of Sindh.

He indicates that policy actions for disaster risk management (DRM) have been defined in the National Education Policy 2009. “However, we need to ensure their effective implementation,” Mr Zangejo stresses.

Policy actions proposed in the national education policy mention that awareness shall be raised amongst students regarding emergency situations, natural disaster and school safety, so as to enable them to take right preventive measures and informed decisions in case of emergencies or crisis such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, storms, etc.

The policy actions also recommend that the curriculum, particularly that of social studies, geography, languages and literacy, shall include themes on natural disasters, emergencies and trauma management based on the latest international best workable practices and that teacher education and training curricula shall consisit of provisions to prepare teachers to address education-related issues during and after the emergency situations.

Children are among the most vulnerable group and there is a multiplier feel-good effect of educating the public through the children on disaster risk reduction, says Mahjabeen Khan, a senior environmental education expert at the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) in Pakistan.

She says that school teachers could surely play their pivotal part in creating and promoting a culture of preparedness and risk reduction. “Sensitising them on disaster management through different capacity-building programmes can help build up disaster-resilient communities,” she concludes.

The writer is a former DawnNews staffer
—–
The feature story was published on 13th January, 2013 in Daily Dawn’s Education that appears on every Sunday.

Weblink: http://dawn.com/2013/01/13/survival-of-the-fittest-teaching-disaster-resilience-in-pakistan/

Civil society joins hands to plant 100,000 trees on Earth Day

LAHORE: Schools, hospitals, media conglomerates and civil society across Pakistan came together to plant an estimated 100,000 trees in 38 cities of the country to celebrate the 43rd international Earth Day.

The massive tree plantation drive had been initiated by World wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) in partnership with PharmEvo.

Pakistan joined 193 countries and more than a billion people across the globe that celebrate this event every year to preserve the environment and create awareness about the catastrophic environmental degradation that threatens our planet.

The campaign was launched at the beginning of the month under the title “Save the Planet in a ‘Nise’ way”.

The official ambassadors of Earth Day included leading actor Adnan Siddiqui; catwalk queen: Nadia Hussain; fashion designer and actor: Aijaz Aslam; television icon: Maya Khan and actor and singer Mehwish Hayat.

Driven by enthusiasm and the spirit to save the country’s green cover, businesses, schools, universities, hospitals and offices took part in the plantation drive across Gujranwala, Sialkot, Raimyar Khan, Bhawalpur, Multan, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Karachi and Lahore to name a few.

WWF-Pakistan’s project ‘Improving Sub-watershed Management and Environmental Awareness in and around Ayubia National Park” funded by Coca Cola Foundation donated 2,000 Chir Pine tube plants for plantation on Earth Day.

Universal Agro Chemicals has donated 250 Neem saplings for the drive. In Lahore, hundreds of students, their parents, teachers, guests and academicians gathered at BSS Canal Side Campus, BSS Garden Town, BSS Johar Town, The City School Ravi, LGS Paragon and Forman Christian College to plant their share of tree saplings in different ceremonies throughout the day. The City School network planted over 5,000 trees provided by WWF-Pakistan.

Speaking at the occasion, the Director General and CEO of WWF-Pakistan, Mr Ali Hassan Habib, said, “a hundred thousand trees is merely the beginning of a bigger drive to plant trees.

Pakistan is one of the most threatened countries in the South Asian regions when it comes to depleting forest cover, which is essential for livelihoods, human and animal habitat, for sourcing many plants and herbs for medicinal purposes and for providing us a balanced and healthy environment to live in. The Earth Day tree plantation drive is our way of creating awareness about this critical issue.”

Hospitals and medical professionals emerged as some of the most enthusiastic participants of the Earth Day tree plantation drive, where the senior staff of Services Hospital echoed the sentiments of the medical fraternity, stating that trees are essential for human health and society and authorities must come together to pledge their support for afforestation and plantation drives.

Earlier, the Associate Vice President of Earth Day Network, John Maleri, had invited WWF-Pakistan and PharmEvo to be the official partners in Pakistan for this event.

Published on April 22, 2013 in Lahore Times.
http://www.lhrtimes.com/2013/04/22/civil-society-joins-hands-to-plant-100000-trees-on-earth-day/

Developing nations put climate change at heart of plans

DHAKA/ISLAMABAD: Representatives from governments in Africa and Asia have formed a network to support their efforts to factor climate change into their development plans.

The group developed its plans at the 7th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, which ended today in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Government Group Network on Climate Change Mainstreaming and Development includes members from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, The Gambia and Zanzibar – and will expand to include other countries.

The network exists to enable policymakers in countries at risk from climate change to share information and collaborate in ways that can strengthen their policies and plans by ensuring they consider how climate change could affect development.

The network has developed a framework for assessing and planning how to integrate climate into the business of national and sub-national planning professionals. The building blocks of the framework are political will, information and awareness, and resources for programmes and projects.

The CBA7 conference – organised by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Bangladesh Centre for Advance Studies (BCAS) — brought together over 250 international practitioners, scientists, government and non-government policy and decision makers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the conference with a strong call for rich countries to help poorer ones to adapt, but also pointed out that developing nations were already leading the way in adaptation.

“This year’s event was especially important in bringing on board significant participation from governments, who now join the civil society based groups that have been mostly involved so far,” says Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in IIED’s climate change group. “This seventh annual meeting has demonstrated how far and fast the community of practice has grown over just a few short years.”

Conference delegates – and online participants who followed the conference over the internet –learnt about ways that people around the world are adapting to climate change in both rural and urban settings, and how governments can embed adaptation in all policy arenas.

“The conference was very useful both in terms of the things I learned that could be replicated at country level and through the interactive networking opportunities it created,” says Lamin Jobe from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in The Gambia. “It has inspired me to advocate for mainstreaming monitoring and evaluation into our climate change planning and implementation processes.”

“Bangladesh has reasserted itself as the adaptation capital of the world,” says Atiq Rahman, director of BCAS. “The issues of climate, development and vulnerability of the poor must be central to future decision making process. There must be assured, adequate and sustainable financial resources for the poorest of the world impacted by climate change induced extreme events.”

Next year’s conference will take place in Nepal and its theme will be ‘financing adaptation’.