WWF celebrates saving of Himalayan forest and not so Common Leopard



Posted on 21 August 2009  | 
Lahore, Pakistan: An initiative by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and a media and legal campaign has ended a proposed large tourism development in one of the best remaining representative areas of Himalayan forest in the Punjab.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court this month not only formalised the new government’s recent dissolution of the New Murree Development Project (NMDP), but ruled out any similar projects for the area in future.

“We are very happy with this outcome and want to thank the other groups that fought it with us and the judges who took the initiative to have it examined,” said Hammad Naqi Khan, WWF-Pakistan director for freshwater, climate and toxics.

“This project has been a threat to this relatively pristine area which has been a reserve for more than a century and to the water reservoirs supplying Islamabad and Rawalpindi since 2004.”

The new Punjab government dissolved the New Murree Development Authority in June, following Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry used his authority in September 2005 to halt the project pending a judicial review of the proposal to turn the 1,663 hectare Patriata Reserved Forest near Murree in Rawalpindi District into a ‘tourist city of international standards’..

WWF became a party to the case and, with other local individuals launched a well-supported media and public campaign against the government-backed proposal and the authority formed to carry out the development.

The envisioned the construction of hotels, restaurants, golf courses, shopping centres etc. right in the middle of a healthy reserve forest which is important habitat for the (now very uncommon in the area) Common Leopard as well as 14 other mammal species, 200 plant species, 146 bird species including rare pheasants and the Paradise Flycatcher, .22 reptiles and six amphibians.

“Most significantly however, this area was a key part of one of the best remaining Himalayan temperate forest areas in Punjab” said Khan. “The forest guaranteed better quality water with lower levels of sediments and pollutants for Simlay and Mangla reservoirs.

“The environmental and economic significance of the forests for a country like Pakistan with a looming water crisis and an agriculture intensive developing economy far outweighed the benefits of what started out as mostly real estate speculation.

“We are also encouraged that the court and ultimately government looked sensitively and sensibly at the issues.”
Upper Naltar Valley Protected forest at 11000 feet Northern Pakistan
© Mauri Rautkari / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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