USAID helps preserve wildlife at Khunjerav National Park
Sost-Gojal, August 06: To preserve wildlife and protect the ecology at Khunjerav National Park, in the far north of Pakistan, the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund Program awarded a grant worth USD 94,354 in Feb 2014 to Gojal Rural Support Organization. GRSO will use the funds to build a micro hydro power station that will benefit the village of Gircha, and plant trees at Seer and Ghilbishi, a forest reserve.
Khunjerav National Park is located in Gojal, near the borders of China and Afghanistan. Gojal is the largest tehsil of District Hunza Nagar, Gilgit-Baltistan. There is a buffer zone between the national park and various settlements in the area.
The forest department has recognized the area of upper Gojal as a community conservation area.
Agriculture and livestock are the main sources of livelihood. Besides cattle grazing, the communities have also been involved in illegal cutting of trees from the buffer zone and even in the park area, because they say the wood is a cheaper option to meet their cooking, lighting and heating needs. This has led to a rapid depletion of forest cover in the buffer zone of the park. According to local estimates, more than 70 percent of the forests have been cut in some locations. With rampant deforestation and illegal encroachment, there are serious threats to the natural habitat of wildlife in the park.
Once completed, the 30KW micro hydro power station will supply electricity throughout the year to 55 households living in the village of Gircha. The electricity will be used for cooking, lighting and heating. The provision of this electricity along with strict monitoring at the community level will discourage people from cutting trees and conserving the natural habitat of wildlife in the park, which otherwise is under threat.
With the planting of nearly 500 pine and juniper trees and 5,000 other trees such as poplars, willows and Russian olives, forest cover in Seer and Ghilbishi is expected to increase from 25 percent to 40 percent.
The project is expected to benefit nearly 500 people. [USAID Pakistan]