17 Sep

Saving Hingol National Park

The ugly head of Pakistani politics and corruption rears its head once again: The Pakistan Air Force and Suparco are trying to “acquire land”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/26/top18.htm in the Hingol National Park. The Hingol National Park is the largest National Park in Pakistan, and is one of three globally significant national parks in Pakistan, as selected by the “Global Environment Facility”:http://www.gefweb.org/.

The Pakistan Air Force has already destroyed one National park, now they are gunning for another one. The IUCN sadly reports on the Maslakh wildlife sanctuary after the PAF moved in: *”All flagships wildlife species have been eliminated from the area”.*

Dawn did a “front page expose”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/26/top18.htm on the PAF’s attempt to take over the hingol national park:

bq.. “The PAF is asking for land from the Hingol National Park because it got away with acquiring land from the Maslakh wildlife sanctuary in the Pishin district,” says Tahir Rasheed, national project manager of the Sustainable Use Specialist Group-Central Asia, an NGO involved in habitat and species conservation projects.

p. The whole approach is a fiasco from step one. The Hingol National Park comes under the control of the federal government, and not the provincial govt. Operating completely illegally, the PAF approached the Baluchistan govt. and surveyed the national park, and even approached the few local inhabitants asking them to relocate elsewhere for a token sum.

There are educated people in the PAF, so they must be aware that they cannot “buy” National park land. It’s a land grab, plain and simple. The Director of Public Relations, PAF, Air Commodore Sarfraz Ahmad Khan, “says”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/27/nat21.htm: “Pakistan Air Force has put up a proposal to the Government of Balochistan for acquisition of a piece of land to establish weapons trial range for JF-17 project.” The Air Force seems to have forgotten that it already has a number of weapons trial ranges around the country. The JF-17 is not some super plane that it needs 80,000 acres to test out its weapons, nor does Pakistan have the planes or weaponary to require multiple firing ranges around the country.

After Pakistan ratified the “Convention on Biological Diversity”:http://www.biodiv.org/default.shtml, the “Global Environment Facility”:http://www.gefweb.org/ (GEF) through the World Bank provided funding of 26.8 million US dollars to Pakistan to work in three globally significant areas for its important biodiversity: Machiara National Park in AJK, Hingol National Park in Balochistan and Chitral Gol National Park in NWFP.

This is where catch 22 comes in: reality is stranger than the truth. While the World Bank is spending “26.8 million US dollars funding conservation projects”:http://www.gefweb.org/Outreach/outreach-PUblications/Project_factsheet/Pakistan-prot-3-bd-wb-eng.pdf in the Hingol National Park, the Pakistan Air Force is trying to destroy it.

The armed forces already “control about 12 million acres, constituting about 12 per cent of total state land”:http://newsline.com.pk/NewsJul2006/cover1jul2006.htm. That is a staggering figure. The military has become addicted to cheap land, and like any druggie keeps lurching out grabbing more and more, damn the consequences to itself and the rest of Pakistan.

Forgotten in all the noise is the fact that one of Hinduism’s holiest site is located in the Hingol National Park. This is a potential tourist hot spot if managed carefully, as for millions of people this is a must visit pilgrimage site. Sustained and managed eco-tourism would provide a much needed boost to the local economy, as well as improve Pakistan’s image considerable, along with promoting friendlier ties with India. After partition the Pakistan govt. had declared it a prohibited area for residents of India but devotees residing in Pakistan and other foreign countries go on pilgrimage to Hinglaj regularly. Recently, Jaswant Singh visited Hinglaj in Jan 2006, but sadly, it still remains a no-go area for Indians.

Once the Pakistan Air Force is through with the park, all these concerns will be moot – the animals dead and the shrine bombed to smithereens.

h4. news reports

_listed by date_

* “Newsline: The New Land Barons?”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsJul2006/cover1jul2006.htm
* “Dawn July 26, 2006: PAF swoops on Hingol National Park”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/26/top18.htm
* “Dawn Editorial, July 27, 2006”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/27/ed.htm#3
* “Dawn July 27, 2006: PAF clarifies position on Hingol Park”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/07/27/nat21.htm
* “The News August 7, 2006: Carving out pieces of a national park”:http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=18853

h4. other, related resources

* “Convention on Biological Diversity”:http://www.biodiv.org/default.shtml
* “Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency”:http://www.environment.gov.pk/
* “IUCN: Balochistan Conservation Strategy”:http://www.bcs.iucnp.org/
* “GEF Programme in Pakistan”:http://www.gefpak.gov.pk/

_this entry is a work in progress_

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