First stride to save Taunsa Barrage sanctuary

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Lahore: The Punjab government has taken a somber stride to save a diversity of fish, reptiles, mammals, Indus river dolphin and birds at the venue of Taunsa barrage in Muzaffargarh.

“This is the first time that any government in Pakistan is trying to protect wildlife,” Dr. Masood Arshad told News Lens Pakistan. “The Forests, Fisheries and Wildlife department of Punjab government with WWF-Pakistan developed this plan jointly. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between WWF-Pakistan and Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department Punjab,” he added.

Director WWF Muhammad Abubakar while talking to News Lens Pakistan said, “Deputy secretary Planning Punjab Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department and Senior Manager WWF Dr. Masood Arshad played vital and decisive role in the development of this project.”

“It wasn’t an easy task to get this plan approved from all the concerned departments. We had to go through a series of interactive sessions at the local and provincial levels with the involvement of all direct and indirect stakeholders. Now both WWF and Punjab government will jointly implement this crucial project,” he further said.

Secretary Forests, Wildlife and Fisheries Department Capt(r) Sher Alam Mahsud approved this plan. “I am happy that I could put my efforts to establish a project that will help save wildlife. In fact, a team consisting of WWF experts and our dedicated officers proposed this idea for Tuansa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said.

“For the first two years, Punjab government will provide PKR 110 million for the improved management of the wildlife sanctuary. Furthermore, this site will be designated as Ramsar Wildlife Sanctuary (a wetland of global significance). This is the first time that a management plan has been approved and a significant budget has been allocated for its immediate implementation,” Mahsud added.

In 1974, Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department declared Taunsa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary protected under the Punjab Wildlife Act. Taunsa wildlife shelter is already facing various threats, Director General Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department Nayyar Iqbal told News Lens Pakistan.

“Change of riverine, forests for agriculture reason, debasing wildlife environment, foraging pressure, cutting of trees for fuel wood, over fishing and illegitimate bird hounding are the major threats to Taunsa wildlife,” Iqbal said.

He added, “This project will assist us in generating consciousness amongst people towards wildlife sanctuary along with communal mobilization. It is also going to contribute towards better management of the habitat, environmental education, tourism and flood natural management.”

District Coordination Officer Hafiz Shuakat Ali told News Lens Pakistan that the distinctive ecology of riverine forests essentially creates such threats to the species like hog deer. “I really hope that this plan will ultimately help yield a participatory progress and enhancement in the confined regime in the vicinity with efficient enforcement of law,” he further states.

“Punjab government has developed this project for the next six years,” Minister Fisheries, Wildlife and Forest Muhammad Asif Malik told News Lens Pakistan. “It is also approved by the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the estimated amount will be raised if it is needed accordingly,” he added.

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