Sustainable use of land, water resources key for economic uplift

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Secretary Muhammad Ali Gardezi, Ministry of Climate Change said that sustainable use of land and depleting water resources is critical for sustainable socio-economic and environmental uplift, particularly food security and poverty alleviation.

Addressing at a national consultative workshop titled `Development of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Land Management in Pakistan,' he said the land management and water conservation plans are not possible without a renewed political commitment at all levels.

"Sustainable management of land resources, combating expanding desertification, increasing area under forestry, promotion efficient use of irrigation water and environment-friendly agricultural practices are daunting but critical tasks for boosting efforts aimed at increasing farm productivity, reducing poverty, checking environmental degradation and tackling hunger and malnutrition," he said.

He pointed out that climate change, which has expedited process of desertification, land erosion, water depletion and overall environmental degradation, opportunity in disguise. Because, the grim scenario of changing weather patterns in the country calls for joint actions by all sectors of economy for coping with resultant disasters, says a press release.

"Pakistan, with 80 percent of its land classified as arid or semi-arid, is facing a growing threat from desertification, land degradation and drought which is further aggravated by climate change impacts as witnessed during flash floods in 2010, 2011 and 2012," the federal climate change secretary stated.

He added that nearly two-third of country's rapidly expanding population relies on dry lands for their livelihoods through agro- pastoral activities.

The productivity and sustainability of these activities in turn depends on critical ecosystem services, provided by rivers, groundwater, trees and soils, which are again at risk from climate change and unsustainable use of these natural resources.

Muhammad Ali Gardezi said that sustainable land management, thus, is an endeavour to tackle these climate change effects in Pakistan, which actually aims to combat land degradation and desertification in the country in order to protect and restore ecosystems and essential ecosystem services.

In order to achieve durable use of these very natural resources, the sustainable land management practices have to be incorporated into national planning and budgetary process.

Talking about sustainable land management (SLM) projects launched recently by the Ministry of Climate Change in collaboration with UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF), the secretary said that under the SLM project a review of the sectoral policies such as forestry, agriculture and water in context of SLM, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's (UNCCD) 10-year strategy and climate change impacts has been completed, which together having national criteria and indicates for SLM will help in effective implementation of the project in the country.

"The SLM will require the adoption of more innovative and cohesive inter-sectoral-policies, effective financing mechanisms and programmes. And, this will only happen with a renewed political will at the national and international levels," he cautioned but hastened to reaffirm his ministry's unfailing commitment to bring land degradation issues at the forefront of national debate, ensuring that SLM project is mainstreamed into all sectoral policies including agriculture and water sectors.

He hoped that once finalized, these criteria and indicators of the sustainable land management across the country will provide an efficient, viable framework to collect, store and disseminate reliable information on SLM project.

This will help in assessing the state of land resources, stability, functions and services of different agro-ecosystems as well as economic well-being of the country's rural communities.

In his welcome address, Muhammad Khalid Siddiq, joint secretary of the ministry of climate change, spelled out key objectives of the workshop, which include developing a generic set of draft criteria and indicators for the SLM project [with the help of consultative process involving technical experts on land management, agriculture, forestry, water and sustainable development] that would be understandable and implementable, measurable and verifiable when enforced.

He also said that the ministry has mandated the SLM project to initiate a process of the National Action Programme (NAP) and Provincial Action Programmes (PAP) that is in harmony with the UNCCD's 10-year strategic plan.

During his address, Dr. Amjad Tahir Virk, NPC-SLMP that it is encouraging to know that Pakistan is one of the few countries, which have taken a lead in accessing funds through Global Environment Facilities (GEF) and the Global Mechanism for NAP alignment to UNCCD and development of integrated investment framework as well as indicator-based reporting for monitoring of the SLM interventions in all provinces of the country.

"Pakistan is first country in South Asia region and one of the few countries in the world for having provincial action programmes for combating land degradation in shape of expanding desertification and increasing soil-erosion," he said.

In his statement, the Federal Climate Change Minister, Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan, has lauded efforts of the ministry for launching such an important programme for dealing a host of land management issues in Pakistan.

"Misuse of land resources, unsustainable farming practices, haphazard construction activities, particularly on agricultural lands, misuse of natural water resources at farm, industrial and domestic levels are all, which have contributed to environmental degradation that costs nearly Rs. 370 billion losses to the national GDP," he deplored.

Lauding the Ministry's officials, Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan said that it is indeed a matter of delight that ministry has successful in launching a flagship national level programme that will not only help address these very problems but also promote durable and viable use of the land resources, check desertification, land erosion and promote water conservation at all levels.


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