Addressing the participant of a virtual dialogue on environmental issues in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, experts said on Sunday that the local environment and ecosystem of the entire Himalayan region are at risk. They said that if forests, rare species of animals, valuable birds that act as environmental filters, valuable herbs and plants balanced by the ecosystem are not protected, the region will lose its ecological balance.
Environmentalists have warned that the timber mafia should be curbed to protect the region’s precious forests. They also said that the irregular construction of guesthouses in the Neelum Valley should be stopped and alternative energy sources should be provided to the people to stop the relentless deforestation. “If action is not taken at the local level, we will lose a large part of the national capital, which will have a devastating effect on the local environment and the ecosystem of the whole region,” they said.
Speaking on the environmental issues of Neelum Valley, the speakers unanimously agreed that a massive awareness campaign and action must be taken to raise awareness about climate change. District-wide measures should be taken in accordance with international standards to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism. Necessary changes must be made to the school curriculum to make the new generation aware of the dangers facing the environment.
Professor Muhammad Siddique Awan, a senior wildlife, conservation and biodiversity researcher, said population growth, deforestation, the influx of tourists into protected areas and pollution have driven the greenhouse effect. He stressed that mitigation and adaptation measures were urgently needed to address significant environmental issues. He further said that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions has multiplied the risk of eruption of glaciers in the Neelum Valley, which poses a serious threat to the ecological balance of the entire Himalayan region.
He said we need to educate the new generation about the dangers facing mountains and forests by changing school curricula. “Local data on climate change is very limited and more funds are needed to continue research on the rational use of water, minerals and medicinal plants,” he mentioned in his speech. opening. The illegal extraction of medicinal plants from the Neelum Valley must be stopped and the movement of nomads, especially those migrating from the mountains to the plains, must also be monitored.
Endangered animals, birds and other wildlife in Neelum Valley are our national heritage, which robs us of the great nation’s capital by eradicating them through poaching and cruelty. Dr Siddique Awan, citing the severe effects of climate change on the local climate, said the monsoon season has now started in the Neelum Valley which is amazing and has led to catastrophic ice eruptions in recent years.
“Population growth has become a major threat to the environment. As a result, the neighborhoods of Athmaqam and Kundal Shahi have now merged, although in light of Islamic injunctions it is necessary to keep a distance of a few kilometers between the two major cities,” he explained. emphasizing the need for attribution. of green spaces between cities.
Environmentalists further said that there are no checks and balances in the tourism sector as tourists spread pollution in mountainous areas and cause other environmental problems. We must introduce an appropriate system to prevent tourists from spreading pollution. They should be oriented towards the protection of local resources.
Sardar Mohammad Akram, a representative of the state forest department, speaking in his personal capacity, said that the forests in the Neelum Valley are equivalent to about half of the forests in the entire state of Azad Jammu-et -Cashmere. And luckily we have trees in the area that have disappeared all over Pakistan.
He described that deforestation is not based on scientific principles and irregularities in deforestation harm forests and wildlife. The area of forests near population centers is shrinking as human populations increasingly use forests for fuel and construction. To save forests, people must appropriate environmental and natural assets as personal property. Government and civil society must work together to save forests.
Tourism department focal person, Khawaja Raisuddin, said that due to climate change, the temperature difference between Neelum Valley and Muzaffarabad Valley has remained non-existent and this is due to extraordinary tourism activities. Considering the increasing number of tourists in the Neelum Valley, relevant agencies should ensure the implementation of building code and other laws to save local resources. Forty-five percent of non-local tourists visiting Azad Kashmir travel to the Neelam Valley. But the relevant laws are not implemented to control the extraordinary number of tourists. There is a need to increase partnerships between local communities and government to save deforestation, and relevant departments and agencies must play their part in enforcing solid waste and building codes in tourist areas.
Speaking on the objectives of the Press for Peace Foundation’s environmental awareness campaign, host Mazhar Iqbal said the organization has carried out many environmental activities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir over the past two decades including seminars, workshops, community projects, public outreach, and media outreach campaigns. These activities aim to raise public awareness of local environmental issues.