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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eve of Bio-Diversity Day

The world\'s biological diversity (estimated at 5 to 30 million species of which only 1.5 million have been identified) is valuable for ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic reasons. This diversity is important for evolution and for maintaining the life sustaining systems of the biosphere. The conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity are of critical importance to meet the food, health and other needs of the growing world population.
However, the diversity of the world\'s plant and animal species is under threat. Species become extinct through natural selection and other natural causes, but man\'s intervention has accounted for or put at risk many more. This is partly the result of over- hunting, poaching and illegal trade and partly through agricultural and industrial development. Conversation is necessary to maintain sources of food, medicine-half of all medicines are derived from plants-and materials for the survival of mankind.
The world\'s economic resources are limited, and establishing priorities for conservation must take into account the benefits accruing nationally, regionally and globally from conversation and sustainable development. Substantial investments are required to conserve biological diversity, but they will pay-off with a broad range of environmental, economic and social benefits.
The world needs to conserve biological diversity and make sustainable use of its components in a fair and equitable way. Sustainable use means the use of natural resources in a manner and at a rate that dose not lead to a reductional of biological diversity in the long run. Concern over biological diversity extends not only to the diversity of species, but also to that of genetic material i.e. plants, animals, or microbial or other material containing functional units of heredity, and to ecosystems, i.e. groupings of living and non-living material that act as a unit.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), commonly known as Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 which brought together Heads of State and government officials from around the globe together will delegates form United Nations agencies, international organisations and many representatives from non-governmental organisations. Pakistan also attended the Conference as leader of the G-77 and produced a report entitled \"Pakistan National Report to UNCED 1992\". The outcome of the Conference was the adoption of the following three documents:
- Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Its 27 principles the define the rights and responsibilities of nations as they pursue human development and well-being,
- Agenda 21: a blue print on how to make development socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.
- A statement of principles to guide the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, which are essential to economic development and the maintenance of all form of life.
Two major international Conventions viz Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) were signed by most governments, including Pakistan. Nations that ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity are required to identify the components of biological diversity important for conservation and sustainable use, develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and make conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity part of planning and policy-making. Many indigenous and local communities are almost exclusively dependent on biological resources as a means of subsistence. Nations should make use of their traditional knowledge of conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity by involving them in policy formulation and implementation of projects.
The Convention on Biological Diversity has entered into force on 29th December 1993 as the requisite number of parties (30) have ratified it. The Government of Pakistan also recognizes the importance of the conservation of Biological Diversity and its sustainable utilization.
Pakistan Postal Services Corporation in collaboration with the Environment and Urban Affairs Division, Ministry of Food & Agriculture (National Council for Conservation of Wildlife, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council) and World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan (WWFP) is issuing commemorative stamps on the following four components of bio-diversity.
(I) Brown bear
(ii) Masher -fish
(iii) Ratan jot
(iv) Wetlands
Each stamp possesses the slogan \'Preserve bio-diversity for sustainable utilization\".
(i) HIMALAYAN BROWN BEAR
(Ursus arctos Linnacus, 1758 Common name-Brown Bear)
Himalayan brown bears are variable in colour and generally appear a sandy or reddish-brown form a distance. The ears are small and rounded and the lips are noticeably protrusible and mobli. They feed on insects, small crustaceans, alpine bulbs and roots of plants, shoots of young grasses, domestic goats, sheep and voles (Alticola species). The cubs climb pyrus trees to feed on berries. They are nocturnal and their sense of smell is acutely developed and believed to be their principal means of finding food. Adult bear normally goes into hibernation at the and of October and emerges around the following March or April. The females give birth to cubs during their winter hibernation. The gestation period is form 180-250 days.
Females are believed to breed first at the age of five years.
The Himalayan brown bear is generally restricted to alpine meadow and sub-alpine scrub zones above the tree-line though it will descend to remoter side valleys or ravines with stunted juniper and birch (Betuala utilis) forest in search of succulent food plants. In Pakistan this bear occurs very sparsely in the higher mountain ranges. Yarkun Valleys of Chitral, lower slopes of Nanga Parbat and Astor, Swat, Indus Kohistan, Gilgit. In Baltistan it occurs in the lower Deosai plateau region. The brown bear is uncommon in Pakistan and is considered rare.
International trade in these bears, or their parts, is banned under the Convention on trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Provincial Wildlife laws ban the bunting, killing and capture of the bear in Pakistan.
(ii) MAHSEER FISH (TOR PUTITORA)
Mahseer is an important fish of hilly areas which occurs in cold waters of rivers and streams. it is commonly known as Mahseer. Its body is of long and is somewhat compressed. Head is broadly pointed and mouth is small. Two pairs of barbells are present and colour is greenish above, light pink on sides with a broad purplish lateral band above the lateral line. Fins are usually grayish green. It is found in clear and cold waters of rivers, streams of hilly regions and plains. Feeds on insects and aquatic vegetation. It can be cultivated in mountainous lakes, ponds and river. Flesh is good and tasty. It breeds from April to September in rocky waters and occurs throughout the mountain and sub-mountain regions of Pakistan and provides an excellent game to anglers.
(iii) RATAN JOT (Geranium Walliachianum)
A pretty perennial plant which grows in temperate and sub-alpine regions of Himalaya. Very common ir~ forests undergrowth and shady places on grassy slopes in Chitral, Dir, Kurram, Swat, Kaghan, Hazara, Gilgit, Kashmir and Murree hills. The stout root stock Produces profusely branched stem, 40-50 cm tall, plant are finely hairy. The leaves are long stalked and deeply 5-lobed are coarsely toothed. Large, conspicuous, paired stipules at the base of leaves distinguish it form other species. Mauve to purplish- blue flowers with prominent darker streaks are borne in pairs. Sometimes white flowered forms are also found.
Rootstock is a strong astringent used externally and internationally, especially in toothache and eye troubles. Also used as a tonic for debility and a tonic dyspepsia. Root stock is commercially harvested in the country for Ayurvedic preparations.
(iv) WETLANDS
Although predominantly arid and-semi-arid, Pakistan possesses a great variety of wetlands distributed almost throughout the country, from the coastal mangroves and mudflats on the Indus Delta to the glacial lakes of the high Himalayas. Over the past sixty years, many of Pakistan\'s natural wetlands have disappeared as a result of irrigation and drainage projects aimed at providing more land for food production and housing. Several new lakes and marshes have, however, been created upstream of dams and barrages on many of the major rivers. Other wetlands have been created as a result of faulty drainage systems and over spill from irrigation canals, and several of these now provide excellent habitat for waterfowl. Nine wetlands of international wetlands have been designated under the Ramsar Convention, 17 more wetlands have been identified for inclusion in the list so that they may get more attention to improve their status. Pollution is becoming a serious problem in many parts of the river system in Pakistan, as the volume of industrial effluents, domestic sewage and pesticides entering the rivers increases.
As far as Pakistan\'s wetland fauna and flora are concerned, man\'s extensive manipulation of the water resources of the Indus Basin has to date resulted in both gains and losses. Ways will have to be found to minimize the adverse environmental impacts of the new drainage and irrigation schemes, pollution of the nation\'s water-ways will have to be brought under control, and a major effort will have to be made to rehabilitates the mangrove ecosystem of the Indus Delta as far as possible. For the native conservation bodies, the priority will be to ensure that sufficient representative examples of Pakistan\'s Wetland ecosystems are adequately protected and managed in the nation\'s system of protected areas, so that the full diversity of Pakistan\'s wetland fauna and flora can be maintained.
(Contributed by: Environment Affairs Division, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad)
To mark the occasion Pakistan Post is issuing a set of four commemorative postage stamps in Se-tenant of Rs. 6/- denomination each on April 20, 1994.