Webinar mulls plans to restore earth’s damaged ecosystems

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan, World Habitat Awards and the United Nations Habitat Programme, co-organized an international virtual seminar on ecosystem restoration for quality of life.

The seminar was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change, the United Nations, INGOs, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies and partners, donor agencies, academia, media and community organizations. The virtual seminar, held on 8 June 2021, was part of a series of official events celebrating World Environment Day (WED).

Recognizing Pakistan’s global leadership in advancing ecosystem conservation and protection, it was selected to host this year’s WED together with the United Nations Environment Programme. This year’s WED theme was restoring the earth’s damaged ecosystems to go from exploiting nature to healing it. WED also launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.

In his message, Special Assistant to the Prime Minster on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, shared, “Although our contribution to global GHG emissions is less than 1%, Pakistan’s people, biodiversity and economy are severely impacted by climate change, with more frequent disasters. We are working to counteract these trends through ambitious initiatives such as the honorable Prime Minister’s Clean Green Pakistan Programme and the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme to restore the ecosystem and electric vehicle policy. The government is also working on developing the first-ever green building codes for the country. I am glad to see development institutions like the Aga Khan Development Network and UN-Habitat contributing to these efforts for a greener Pakistan”.

During the seminar, speakers from UN-Habitat, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat shared their experiences in ecosystem restoration and improving quality of life for communities living in mountainous areas to coastal belts and urban centres of Pakistan and globally.

Mountain ecosystems are particularly rich in terms of biodiversity, culture, and critical natural resources such as water. Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, explained, “mountains and mountain communities are on the frontlines of climate change, facing the threat of melting glaciers, unpredictable weather, and flash floods. AKAH is working to restore these fragile ecosystems and build resilient habitats for these communities to thrive.”

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “What makes AKAH’s work exceptional is that it’s not just responding to the effects of the climate emergency but is being proactive in protecting people from its effects – through using technology and the knowledge of the communities themselves. It provides communities with the knowledge of where and how to live in safety in a changing world. This has to be the best way for communities vulnerable to disasters and the effects of climate change to protect themselves. The potential for this approach to be adapted and used in similar areas in Pakistan and elsewhere is absolutely huge.”

Hafiz Sherali, President, Aga Khan Council for Pakistan, explained that “In many of the areas where AKDN works, climate change compounds the risk of natural disasters resulting in the loss of lives and livelihoods. The AKDN is committed to protecting and restoring ecosystems while improving the quality of lives of the millions of people we serve. We take a holistic approach to mitigate disaster risk and proactively protect the environment.”

Nawab Ali Khan, CEO, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat Pakistan added, “AKAH is honored to celebrate World Environment Day with the government of Pakistan, vulnerable communities and our national and international partners. Decades of experience has guided us that only by working together can we hope to overcome the environmental challenges we face in Pakistan and globally.

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