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Mountain conservation is vital for economic development

ISLAMABAD: Youth shall be sensitised to take care of Pakistan’s Mountains that are second to none. Mountaineering and tourism can bring much awaited prosperity and economic development to the northern parts of the country. The hardworking natives of mountains are custodians of indigenous knowledge, folklore and culture.

This was stated by Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul while speaking as the chief guest at the closing ceremony of the 9th Pakistan Mountain Festival organised by the Devcom-Pakistan In Islamabad on Thursday.

The first K2 climber Ashraf Aman, Chief Executive Officer Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) Qazi Azmat Isa, National Secretary of the Pakistan Youth Hostels Association (PYHA) Ambassador (retd) Qazi Humayun, WaterAid Advocacy coordinator Zartasha Niazi, Aga Khan Rural Support  Programme Manager Altaf Hussain Shah and Country Coordinator of the Italian development organisation Ev-K2-CNR Riazul Hassan were also present.

Ms Gul said we have unmatchable mountains for high altitude trekking and scenic attractions, landscapes and lakes to enthuse the foreign tourists. The government has relaxed the visa policy for the foreign tourists to enhance the tourism influx.

The minister said provision of alternate energy to the mountain communities would decrease pressure on the mountain forests. They also be sensitised to protect their resources from the exploiters of the natural resources. Poverty is another reason for the mountain communities to lagging behind. We need to have integrated and comprehensive plans to combatting the climate challenge, poverty and disaster risk reduction.

PYHA National Secretary Ambassador (retd) Qazi Humayun said that the PYHA has thirteen hostels mostly in the mountains that could be used for engaging local youth and students from other parts of the country in to different mountain conservation initiatives.

He said the mountain environment is rapidly changing and the mountains are losing their beauty and charms day by day. We need to act briskly to save the natural eco-habitats.

Speaking on the occasion, Devcom-Pakistan Director and the founder of Pakistan Mountain Festival Munir Ahmed said the festival was main focusing on engaging youth and mountain communities up and downstream to create a synergy for raising voice for mountain conservation and development. Mountains are on the frontline of climate impact and need more active plans of investment to protect nature and natural resources besides investing in the natives’ livelihood and for the protection of their lives and infrastructure.

The minister of state for climate change also distributed awards and souvenirs among the partners of the festival. Well-known mountain conservationist Ashiq Ahmad Khan was conferred upon the first Agostino Da Polenza award. Tourism expert Aftab ur Rehman received first Ashraf Aman Mountain Tourism Award while first Shoaib Sultan Khan Mounain Community Development Award was given to Syed Yehya Shah from Gilgit-Baltistan.

The recipients of the Friends of Mountain Awards included Zeeshan Hussain , the executive producer Khabarnak Geo News, city editor of daily Dawn, The News, Express Tribune  and The Nation. The award winning journalists included Syed Anis Ahmad, Afshan S. Khan, Gibran Ashraf, Rahul Basharat, Zubair Qureshi and photojournalists Syed Mehdi, Sultan Bashir, Afzaal  Chaudhary and Saleem Rana.

Pakistan Youth Hostels Association (PYHA) was awarded Friends of Mountains for consistently engaging youth into mountain advocacy and awareness events over the years. Islamabad Devcom Centennial Leo Club president Haares Munir and his team was given an award for their yearlong mountain clean up and plantation drives. Riffat Ara Baig, a well-known artist and educationist, awarded for engaging youth in to art activities over the year to promote mountain issues and educate the youth on their role in environmental conservation.

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