Pakistan is suffering from a major challenge stemming from the twin problems of increasing poverty and environmental degradation. There is ample evidence to suggest that Pakistan is failing in its battle to protect its environment. Pakistan is facing a crisis because of a rapidly eroding stock of natural resources. Pakistani forests are dwindling, now constituting less than 5% of the nation's area (Pakistan country report, 1994). With one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, Pakistan's forests are in urgent need of protection and conservation (Forests, n.d.). All available evidence indicates that the overall situation of Pakistan's environmental challenges is very serious. The problems of environmental degradation are getting worse, not better. The most serious issue in natural resources management is Pakistan's rampant population growth. Pakistan's current population is about 140.5 million, almost 2.3% of the world population, making it the seventh most populated country in the world (Government of Pakistan, 2001). The stark reality is that unless the rate of its population growth is brought under control, Pakistan will not be able to provide for the basic needs of its teeming millions. Moreover, the scarcity of food and water might cause a crisis of public security making the country difficult to govern. Pakistan faces a formidable challenge in tackling the twin problems of poverty and degraded environment. There is some recognition in the United Nations and other international agencies that much more needs to be done for countries like Pakistan. There is no doubt that poverty has increased in the country. According to a report in The News published from Islamabad (Malik, 2000, p. 1), 40 million people live in poverty in Pakistan, out of which 27 million live in extreme poverty.
The forests of the country are being increasingly threatened because of various factors. Similarly, the management of biodiversity, protected areas, and wildlife in Pakistan suffers from a number of problems such as:
a. Severe shortage of trained professionals to administer the declared protected areas, most of which exist on paper only.
b. Most government regulations are punitive in nature, and have failed to relate locals to the management of natural resources. Local communities have no ownership, and therefore have little incentive to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources or carry out regulations. The locals do not trust the government agencies, which has stalled past conservation efforts.
c. A lack of general awareness of the technical aspects of managing biodiversity, protected areas, and wildlife holds back capacity building.
In the face of daunting problems there have been only a few notable environmental initiatives. The efforts of a few organizations like Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the Government of Pakistan (GOP) have achieved some success in the field. The GOP has taken several steps to arrest further environmental degradation through a National Conservation Strategy (NCS) adopted in 1992, followed by an Action Plan for 1993-1998. Later, provincial strategies were also prepared. The IUCN played a leading role in the formulation of not only the NCS but also the Sarhad Provincial Conservation Strategy (SPCS). In addition, the Northern Areas Conservation Strategy is also being prepared with its assistance. A central feature of IUCN operational style is the considerable emphasis on undertaking the participatory and consultative approach to decision-making. Though tedious, these approaches have been incorporated in all IUCN programming. The participatory mechanisms are also institutionalized by the AKRSP in the Northern Areas. This effort has also attracted worldwide attention for its high success rates. There are other success stories also. The point is, that in an overall dismal scenario there is still hope. …