By Javeed Farooqi (Uthool, Mulkhow)
Biodiversity is generally considered as the verity of life on earth. However, in broader prospective it is also placed in the frame of life, gene and ecosystem narratives. Almost all cultures have recognized the importance of nature, and its biological diversity has had upon them. Yet power, creed and politics have always affected its precarious balance. The diversity of species on Earth is incredible. Right now, there are more than 1.7 million species that have been discovered and named while scientists think that there are millions more we don’t know about. The different plants, animals and other forms of life interact with each other in so many ways that we are still figuring them out.
The awareness about the importance of Biodiversity was realized internationally later in 1960s when already many species had become extinct as a result of natural physical processes and human interventions. United Nations played the key role for formulating an international protocol for the conservation of Biodiversity resulting the framing of International Convention on Conservation in 1987 and, later on International Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 in United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which were also rectified by Pakistan. District Chitral established its own Conservation strategy in 1997in collaboration of IUCN and Swizz agency and, has privilege to be the first district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in this regard.
Chitral has a rich biodiversity. As reported so far, it has 46 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, 28 species of reptiles, three species of amphibian and nine species of fishes. Although different studies suggest a little bid fluctuations in the number of species, these information are taken from surveys conducted by Zoological Survey Department of Pakistan and Pakistan Museum of Natural History Islamabad and different research publications by field taxonomists of international and national repute. Chitral is a part of Palearctic faunal region and has a slight mix of oriental region and, being located in the essence of two zoogeographical zones it has favourable condition for a rich biodiversity not only on the basis of the numbers of species but also in the perspective of relative abundance. Moreover their adaptation to harsh climatic conditions is also remarkable. Having broad range of altitudinal variation from 1094 m at Arandu in the south to 7,720 m at Terichmir in the north Chitral district has unique climatic features.
The common plant species found in Chitral are willow (Salix), juniper (Juniperus spp.) and poplar (Populus spp.). Fruit tress like mulberry (Morus spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), apricot (Prunus spp.) and grapes (Vitis spp) are found in the orchards of peasants and growers. Some cold resistant aromatic species like low shrubs, wormwood and low-laying cushion plants are also found.
Chitral is highly regarded for its treasure of fauna as well. Some endangered species of the world e.g. snow leopard (Unciauncia), cape hare (Lepus capensis), Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco), long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudate) and himalayan ibex (Capra ibex sibrica) still live in these remote valleys of Hindukush. Other common animals of this mountainous habitat are fox (Vulpes vulpes), jackal (Canis aureus), himalayan lynx (Felis lynx) and markhor (Capra falconeri). Some famous native birds of Chitral are snow cock (Tetraogallus caspius), hill pigeon (Columba rupestris) and gray wagtails (Motacilla cinerea).
Unfortunately Chitral district is not valuing its rich Biodiversity and massive hunting and poaching of endangered species e.g. Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco) and markhor (Capra falconeri) is a routine practice of cruel hearted people. Moreover in upcoming three month the people of riverine belt of Chitral have started preparation for hunting one to two millions of migratory birds. These birds are coming from Siberia and Russia and if escaped they can reach Manchar and Kinjheer jheel Sind. In this locus the killing is the most severe. If the people are deviating from the teaching of Islam and are sabotaging ethical values by killing these birds and violating the law then it is the responsibility of the government and its law enforcing agencies to take practical measure to protect the biodiversity.
Published in ChitralToday on Jan 8, 2013.