MUZAFFARABAD/ATHMUQAM. Speakers at a seminar urged the authorities to take stringent measures for the protection of natural resources and forests of the Neelum valley, the largest hub of biological diversity.
They said the valley’s forests are 48 percent of the total AJK state owned forests. They are under threat in the absence of needful legislation and flawed implementation of available legislation.
The speakers suggested the government to curb timber mafia to protect the Neelum Valley forests, provide alternate fuel and environmental building materials for the constructions. They said an integrated solid waste management system will protect the clean and green nature of the Valley.
The seminar was organized by the Forests Protection Council and Community Development Group of the Neelum Valley here Sunday in connection with the 18th annual celebrations entitled “Jashn-e-Neelum”. The collaborating partners were the local municipal committee, forest department and Wapda.
A well-known environmentalist, development strategist and founder of globally recognized Pakistan Mountain Festival Munir Ahmed and Mayor Neelum Valley Syed Tajammul Hussain Shah were the guests of honour on the occasion. Other speakers included development expert Aftab Hussain Bokhari, former AJK minister Mufti Mansurur Rehman, Sardar Muhammad Akram, Jalaluddin Akbar, former additional chief secretary Farhat Ali Mir, Conservator Forest Mir Naseer and Khawaja Lashkar Azad.
Speaking on the occasion environmentalist and founder Pakistan Mountain Festival Munir Ahmed said: Neelum valley is a largest hub of natural resources, water, biodiversity, minerals and gemstones whereas the tourism potential is immense too.
With the increasing trend of commercialisation and tourism in the valley, the natural resources will be at stake posing several threats. Therefore, the district stakeholders shall come forward to think about the conservation of the Neelum valley.
He urged the need for an inclusive sustainable development strategy that should be developed through a participatory consultative process.
Munir Ahmed urged the AJK government to allocate special funds and employ local human resources for the sustainable tourism business, conservation, protection and management of forests and other natural resources.
All the union council members under the Neelum Valley mayor, and local communities shall be incentivized to safeguard their ecological habitats. An organized and trained mainstream journalists and citizen can take the responsibility of highlighting the challenges being faced by the valley.
Mayor Syed Tajammul Hussain urged the communities to take a proactive approach in protection and conservation of the natural resources of the Valley.
He said the development partners’ help will play a key role in building the capacity of the newly elected members of the local administration, and support the community-based governance models.
Conservator Forests Mir Naseer said a joint platform of all stakeholders shall make decisions for the future development, conservation and management of the forests that are a hub of largest species and natural resources.
Founder of the Neelum district Mufti Mansurur Rehman asked for a community-government liaison forum for an inclusive development. “We need to promote sustainable and environment-friendly business mechanisms’, he said.
Sardar Muhammad Akram highlighted that the entire Valley has only eleven check posts while the staff is too less to monitor the huge area of the forests. The elite-mafia nexus is also a big threat for the communities, forests and the forest guards.