Sustainable Utilization of Natural Resources: a community Based Conservation Effort in Bar Valley, Gilgit, Pakistan



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Bar Valley

Bar Valley is situated about 35 kilometers from the town of Gilgit in the Nagar subdivision of the North Western Frontier Provinces of Pakistan. Bar Valley was once known for its large number of Siberian ibex (Capra ibex sibirica). However, their numbers have declined due to uncontrolled hunting by the local people for food and outsiders for trophies. Although wildlife department staff were present, they were largely ineffective in controlling and managing hunting inside the valley.

There are three main villages in Bar Valley with a total of 240 households. These communities depend mainly on livestock for their livelihood. Having already overgrazed the areas close to the villages, the people began grazing their livestock in the alpine pastures that were once the exclusive domain of wild animals, including the ibex.

Winters are hard in Bar Valley. The minimum temperature in January often dips well below freezing and the valley remains covered with snow. During these harsh winters, the villagers burn large amounts of fuelwood to keep warm. The main source of fuel is the juniper tree, which is one of the only forest trees found in the local mountain ecosystem. It is slow growing and endangered throughout the country. In addition, the people collect huge quantities of alpine grasses for stall feeding their livestock in the winter. The combined effect of deforestation and removal of grasses has resulted in erosion, and the deterioration of the habitat needed for the ibex and other wildlife.

The continuous loss of habitat and uncontrolled hunting of ibex created a dire situation in Bar Valley. In 1990, WWF/Pakistan initiated activities to alleviate the process of degradation and improve the status of the ibex by establishing linkages among local communities, local administration and other NGOs, as well as adapting integrated management approaches.

The core of the plan was to motivate villagers to take responsibility for protecting the ibex until the population could grow to a level when commercial exploitation would be feasible. The objectives of the project were to:

u protect wildlife species of the area against illegal, uncontrolled and unauthorized hunting;

u generate income opportunities for the local communities and improve their lifestyle through the sustainable use of the environment (both natural resources and wildlife);

u preserve and improve the local biodiversity;

u create awareness with regards to the value of environmental conservation;

u provide training and research opportunities to students and graduates of universities, both local and foreign; and

u provide practical examples of resource conservation (biodiversity in general and wildlife in particular) and development through local participation for replication in other parts of the country.





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