PESHAWAR: UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme has approved the designation of 10 new biosphere reserves in nine countries, including one in Chitral.
Last year, the KP government approved the first ever biosphere reserve of the province in the Bashqar Gol and Shandur valleys of Upper Chitral.
According to a press statement of UNESCO posted on its official website, with these new designations, the World Network now totals 748 sites in 134 countries, including two transboundary sites.
The sites selected in Pakistan included ‘The Chitral Bashkar Garam Chashma Biosphere Reserve’ and ‘Gallies Biosphere Reserve’ located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan in the moist temperate Western Himalayan Ecoregion.
Biosphere reserves are a pillar of UNESCO’s mandate as the United Nations sciences agency.
Each biosphere reserve promotes innovative local solutions, in order to conserve biodiversity, preserve ecosystems and tackle climate change, while improving people’s livelihoods, such as by developing agro-ecology, renewable sources of energy and green industries, it adds.
The biosphere reserves contribute to countries achieving the targets adopted last December within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
These targets include designating 30 per cent of the earth’s land surface as protected areas and restoring 30 per cent of the planet’s degraded ecosystems by 2030, it continued.
Chitral Bashkar Garm Chashma biosphere borders Afghanistan to the north and west and the site sustains the populations of a wide range of near-threatened or vulnerable species, including the Kashmir Markhor (Capra falconeri cashmiriensis) and Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica), two wild species of goat, the Ladakh Urial (Ovis vignei vignei), a wild species of sheep, and the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia).
The biosphere reserve is home to a population of 210,000, as well as to the unique Chitral culture developed over many millennia across more than a dozen distinct peoples and many languages, including endangered Indo-Aryan languages such as Kalasha and Kalashamum.
The natural beauty and cultural diversity of the biosphere reserve make it a popular and growing destination for eco-tourism.
While the Gallies Biosphere Reserve is globally recognized as being of international significance for biodiversity conservation owing to an abundance of endangered or threatened species such as the common leopard (Panthera pardus).
The site comprises highly diversified ecosystems, including sub-alpine meadows and conifer forests, moist temperate forests and subtropical pine forests.
“UNESCO biosphere reserves are tangible proof that humanity can live in balance with nature. Since 1971, this community-led programme has successfully found a model for development where people live well and biodiversity is respected,” comments Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General.
“I am pleased that this year, 11 more sites are joining this powerful network, which is more relevant and necessary than ever,” she added.