Deosai plateau; a significant ecological and natural asset is home to a variety of wildlife species such a Himalayan Brown bear, Himalayan ibex, Snow leopard and Golden marmot. It is a store house of medicinal and aromatic plants; its magnificent and enchanting wetlands such as Sheosar lake, Bara Pani, Kala Pani and other streams, peats and mosses provide important habitats to a number of water birds; harbors three fish species, small mammals and insects. Deosai plains having ample juniper forests at higher elevations and streams, lakes and rivers amidst; provide freshwater to downstream communities for drinking, agriculture and hydropower generation.
The Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (HWF) and the Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department of Gilgit-Baltistan (GBFWED) have been making efforts since late nineties to protect and conserve the valuable resources of the park but due to lack of adequate financial and technical resources; desired results could not be achieved, and consequently, anthropogenic pressures have increased resulting into excessive use of park resources by communities, visitors and nomads. Alongside, increasing global temperatures have also been impacting the ecology of the park, yet invisibly.
The Directorate of Deosai National Park is intended to write a comprehensive management plan for the park to protect its ecological heritage for the benefit of nature and for the well being of its surrounding communities. The DNP jointly with WWF-Pakistan, planned to revise and update the draft management plans written by HWF in 2005. For this purpose, available literature was reviewed, gaps were identified, stakeholders were consulted; both at the community and organizational levels through meetings and workshops, and present management plan was drafted.
The purpose of this management plan is to maintain and regulate ecological and biological resources of the Park, minimizing negative impacts of the existing as well as emerging conflicts between the conservation needs of the park resources and livelihood needs of the local people during the next five years period.
The Plan aims at:
- Protection of Brown bear and other wildlife species in the park
- Protection of medicinal and aromatic flora of the park
- Maintenance of the ecological characteristics of the park with focus on wetlands and juniper forest ecosystems
- Protection of the park habitats against fragmentation, encroachment and diversion of its aquatic resources
- Promotion of awareness as a source of education for the people of Pakistan and for socio- economic development of the custodian communities
- Promotion of sustainable development opportunities i.e., sustainable tourism for the people living in the buffer zone valleys of the Park
- Connecting Deosai plateau with other natural habitats in the immediate and further vicinities
- Promotion of research as a basis for management decisions for the park.
To achieve the objectives of the management plan, result oriented actions are essential, which are explained separately for each objective in the lines below:
Strengthen the park infrastructure to cope with various issues, outlined under the relevant sections
The Deosai plateau is one of the potential habitats of Himalayan Brown bear not only in Pakistan but also in the whole of Asia. It also harbors some other important wildlife species such as; Snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, Tibetan wolf, Red fox, Musk dear and Ladakh urial (HWF, 2006). With the growing human population with improvised life styles among communities of the park, its biodiversity has been facing many threats including un-natural deaths of Brown bear due to direct killing and food losses, overgrazing of pastures by livestock of locals and nomads, un- sustainable developments and encroachments resulting in the shrinkage of natural habitats, and habitat disturbances caused by dogs and other pet animals taken into the park by local as well as nomadic herders. The plan suggests strengthening of the existing Park infrastructure by improving its watch & guard mechanism through effective participation of local communities in park management, displaying and enforcing the park rules and regulations, creating intervention specified zones, and by protecting key wildlife habitats.
Organize community and build their capacities to undertake various socio-economic activities and protective role
Lake of coordination, lack of awareness, existing as well as emerging conflicts over resource utilization by local communities and line departments have been the biggest challenges for improved management of the park. The plan suggests effective participation of the stakeholder communities by constituting an apex organization as Park Management Committee (PMC) headed by the Secretary Forest GB with adequate representation of local communities from stakeholder communities of Skardu and Astore, government and non government agencies for park related decision making, resource conservation, and benefit sharing etc. It also suggests providing the required staff, building their capacities and arranging reward mechanisms for the leading conservationists, community activists, field practitioners from the department and communities.
Facilitate field research
So far, research has been a huge gap in the management planning of Deosai National Park. There is not even proper data available on biodiversity of the park and other natural resources. The plan therefore, suggests developing linkages with leading national and international research institutions, departments and Universities to foster detailed research in various fields including but not limited to species, habitats, ecology, wetlands, climate change, for science based management of the park resources. The Park management jointly with KIU, AKRSP, WWF and HBP may identify appropriate topics and facilitate field research whereas; Karakorum International University can be the focal point for implementation of the suggested research plans.
Publicize the park and its resources for attracting tourists
Deosai has tremendous potential for ecotourism, with its amazing biodiversity and other natural features. Communities of Khunjerab National Park are getting enormous benefits from the park through Park entry fee and trophy hunting in its buffer zone, which helps in the socio-economic development of the park communities, thus enhancing their interest for better management of the Park and its resources. Due to lack of economic incentives to the park communities, people have least interest in park management, and thus lead excessive use of park resources, being poor. The plan suggests promoting non consumptive uses of natural resources like ecotourism in and outside the national park to benefit local communities through a website, designing
promotional materials, such as brochures, leaflets, booklets, poster, stickers etc., on biodiversity, lakes, treks and other touristic spots, displaying signage and publicity boards at appropriate locations, establishing bird and wildlife sighting points, camping sites, developing treks and establishing visitor’s information centers at park entry points and other appropriate places.
Check unsustainable developments in the park through stakeholder mobilization
The Park has quite a few aquatic resources such as wetlands, streams and peat lands, as major components of the Park’s wetland ecosystems. With the growing population and development interventions, there may be diversions, encroachments and fragmentation of the habitat. There have been many disturbances to the aquatic resources and habitats as a result of the road construction and traffic flow. In order to safeguard wildlife from such disturbances; the Plan suggests to discourage construction of roads, buildings and restaurants within the Park and in its immediate buffer zone; under take EIA of the infrastructure development projects; restrict diversion of aquatic resources, rivers and streams from their natural courses to maintain natural integrity of the peculiar ecosystems; and enforce park rules and regulations. Gilgit-Baltistan Law department, Environmental Protection Agency, Tourism department and community based organizations can work jointly to implement the above-mentioned actions.
Demarcate the park boundaries and boundaries of various use zones for the plan period Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing (GIS/RS) techniques have now become an important decision support tool for science-based management of natural resources. Many of the experts prefer using GIS based environmental databases to collect, collate, analyze and interpret scientific information about key research parameters to make informed decisions for natural resource management, particularly in the field of wildlife conservation and Protected Area Management. Unfortunately, it is still lacking in case of DNP, and consequently, resource use is not being monitored, excessive exploitation is common in far off valleys, encroachment and habitat fragmentation have also been observed inside the park. In order to monitor and manage park resources effectively, the plan suggests delineating Park boundaries, with technical assistance from WWF, SUPARCO or PU, on watershed basis using GIS & RS technologies through community consultation and ground validation. It also suggests conducting land cover classification, zonation and GIS mapping of different areas to designate strict protection; ecotourism & recreation; livestock grazing; wildlife; restoration and special use zones in the Park and its buffer zone.
Create awareness at all levels
Deosai is unique in a multitude of species, habitats and ecosystems i.e., High Altitude Wetlands, Juniper forests, and alpine pastures, abundant in medicinal and aromatic flora and endemic fauna. It hosts a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna; documented fauna include 22 mammals, 209 birds, 3 fish, one amphibian and two reptiles (Woods et al., 1997). It harbors diverse plant communities with a number of progenitors of economically useful crops including wild cumin, thyme and host a wide array of medicinal plants with potentially useful pharmaceutical values. Such a diverse combination of the ecosystems does provide potential habitats to a number of endemic species and ecological services to buffer zone communities. Even a minor disturbance to any unit of this ecological complex may cause harm to all the associated ecosystems, species and ecological processes, culminating into loss of species, degradation of habitats and unsustainable flow of ecosystem services. Extreme poverty, high dependence and ignorance seem to be the major reasons for this functions and injudicious park
resources. The plan suggests raising environmental awareness amongst communities, visitors and other stakeholders through an extensive education and awareness Programs, lecture delivery, information display, signage, trainings, and workshops. It also suggests establishing tourist information centers at both the Park entry points from Skardu and Astore.
Extend the ecological boundaries of the park to other protected areas in the Himalayas and Karakorum and when possible across the borders to adjoining protected areas
Deosai is a Protected Area of immense importance due to its ecological diversity and geographic location. It is adjacent to Central Karakorum National Park, which is partially contiguous to the Khunjerab National Park in Shimshal area. Being fully or partially contiguous, there is a possibility (yet not exactly known) of migration/movement of wildlife between these protected areas, and also sometimes across the national boundaries to the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir. For effective management of and to maintain the ecological integrity of these Protected Areas, it is essential to connect them through wildlife connectivity corridors. By doing so linkages may be developed between the concerned communities for effective landscape level conservation to establish an international protected area in the region. The plan suggests developing GIS maps of all such possible connecting routes, common habitat, glaciers and other connectivity features, and to initiate a productive dialogue process amongst the key players to establish connectivity corridors, under the supervision of GBFWD and Ministry of Environment with possible technical and financial support from WWF-Pakistan and other related NGOs.
Establish mechanisms for financial sustainability of the park
GB is amongst the least developed provinces in the country, where cost of providing basic infrastructure and social services is also comparatively high in view of a challenging mountainous terrain. Given the general shortage of resources for meeting the operational and developmental requirements of the province, funds available for wildlife management and environment tend to be limited. There is a need for mobilizing additional resources through internal revenue generation through improvement in collection of park entry fees, and permits for recreational fishing, camping fees, and collection of fines against violations etc., to decrease current level of dependence on public sector funds, while significantly reducing the shortage of funds currently being faced by the park. All the amounts collected from park entry fees, grazing fees, fishing permits if decided upon, fines and penalties, and any other revenues collected from the park could be deposited in a Wildlife Conservation Fund and a transparent mechanism devised for judicious utilization of funds therefrom, to meet emerging needs of the park and communities living in the periphery of the park.
The Deosai plains are amongst the highest plateaus of the world, at an average elevation of 13,000 feet above the sea level. The plains remain snow bound almost from May till November every year, sustaining a fragile alpine ecosystem and associated wildlife species such as brown bear, Snow leopard, Himalayan ibex and many other species of animals, birds and plants.
In December 1993, Gilgit-Baltistan Administration notified some 3626 Km2 area of the Deosai plain as National Park, mainly to protect the endemic species of Himalayan Brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) in its natural habitat and to maintain the ecological balance of its fragile habitat. Illegal hunting and poaching of wild animals, excessive exploitation of medicinal herbs, over grazing and immoderate tourist flow were amongst the key threats to Park and its natural resources (Haggler Bailey Pakistan)
In order to assist the government and local communities for sustainable management of the critical alpine ecosystem of Deosai plains, the Himalayan Wildlife Project (HWP) wrote a draft management plan for the Park, mainly based upon its two-years socio-economic and ecological research on the plateau from 1992-1994, which somehow, could not be approved and hence could not be implemented mainly because of technical and financial constrains, at that time.
The plan aimed to protect Himalayan Brown bear in Deosai Plains. However its separate operational objectives were designed to address the development of natural processes, minimize the negative impacts of human activities, improve socio economic condition of people and promote research for the scientific management. The management objectives of the Plan focused on ecological integrity of the park, conservation and sustainable development, scientific research and setting up a proper administrative unit for the best management of the park. The plan had certain management options such as, institutional arrangement, boundary delineation, resource management, awareness raising, research and training, community involvement and ecotourism promotion. Although the plan was a good guideline document but was more an operational plan than a management plan. However it did not thoroughly discuss the appropriate management approaches & strategies, research topics related to park issues, community involvement & ownership, legal & policy support, conflicts and ways for conflict management, boundary delineation & demarcation and sustainable resource use practices..
Due to unavailability of a proper management plan for a long time (almost 10 years) the threats to ecology and biodiversity of the park increased, with the passage of time and to overcome these problems, the Directorate of Deosai National Park, planned to revise the draft management plan, and update it by incorporating the inevitable changes proposed by the participants of the DNP Consultative Workshop, to address the emerging conservation needs of the park and its buffer zone communities, mainly arising from the social and natural resource dynamics in the area, endeavoring to make the Plan more comprehensive, simple and applicable for improved protection and management of natural resources in Deosai plains.
For this purpose in November 2007, the Directorate of DNP requested WWF-Pakistan for technical assistance to review and update the HBP drafted Management Plan, mainly based upon its three decadal experience of community based conservation in Gilgit-Baltistan, on conservation of unique species and fragile ecosystems, for socio-ecological upliftment of the area.
In response to DNP’s invitation, WWF initiated the Park management planning process through preliminary consultation with the Directorate of DNP, stakeholder communities and locally active partner organizations in January 2008. Efforts were made to review all available secondary information, identify stakeholders, and explore the existing as well as emerging management issues, administrative problems and conservation impediments. Followed by the community meetings in Astore and Skardu, a daylong consultative workshop was convened at Gilgit in January 15, 2009.
A very short history is known of Deosai National Park. The word Deosai consists of Deo, or Djin, which is the local terminology for spirits and Sai is used for the sitting place, which together mean the “place of spirits”. Deosai served as an important trade route between Kashmir and Gilgit, and in the pre-partition era, it served as an area where most of the tribal conflicts were resolved. Wars were fought in Deosai plains by warriors such as the Dogras, local tribes and the Turks (Khan, 1962). Its geographic location makes it an important territory from strategic point of view, as it is close to the Line of Control (LoC) with India, in the Indian held Kashmir.
The Deosai National Park is a high altitude plateau, situated in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan at the confluence of three mountain ranges, western Himalayas, the Ladakh and Zanskar. Administratively it falls in Skardu and Astore districts, with the following spatial extent;
Top: 35◌ 11′ 3.45″
It is generally divided as Bara (big) and Chota (small) Deosai. Bara Deosai is the main plateau, approximately 30 km in the south of Skardu, accessible from the north through a jeep able road from Skardu that enters the plains via Ali Malik Pass. This jeep road crosses the plains and creeps down into the Astore Valley in the west through the Sheosar Pass near Sheosar Lake. Connecting jeep roads have recently been added to Matiyal towards the east and Gultari towards the south. There are a number of trails crossing the plains.
Deosai National Park encompasses only the Bara Deosai. This area is the main stronghold of the country’s Brown bear population. Most of the Chota Deosai serves to be an important wildlife corridor between Deosai and Nellum valley in Azad Kashmir providing the passage for Brown bears to move in between the two luxurious habitats across LoC unrestricted, so far.
According to the notification of the Northern Areas Administration (1993) now called Gilgit- Baltistan Provincial Government, the boundaries of the Park are described as below:-
North: the North boundary traces the watershed of the Tributary nullahs and passes through the water partings and drains into Deosai Nullah through the highest peak of Ali Malik Pass touching the Satpara Game Sanctuary, in Skardu Valley.
East: The eastern boundary passes through the water partings of the nullah draining into Borbartar and finally joins Brawal nullah at the confluence of small Deosai nullah.
South: The southern boundary traces the water partings of the southern tributary nullahs and drains into small Deosai nullah.
West: the western boundary is the administrative boundary between Astore Sub Division and Skardu in Baltistan Division.
Status of the Park:
The Government of the Gilgit-Baltistan, declared Deosai as National/Wilderness Park on May 14, 1993, spreading over an area of approximately 3626 Sq Km. According to IUCN protected area categories, Deosai is a category I National / wilderness Park (Annex 4: Park notification of 1993).
The Park encompasses an area of around 3626 sq. km, with altitude ranging from 3500 to 5200 meters ASL. The central part of the Park is relatively flat and gentle with lower elevation of 4000 meters. Almost 63% of the area has an elevation range from 4000 to 4500 meters, and 22% of the area is above 4500 meters (HWF, 1996).
The soils of this area are severely eroded, of a coarser nature and mixed with gravel and stones of various material and sizes. In the flat areas between the mountains, soil is deep with marshy vegetation. Erosion due to grazing is rare and is confined to the few areas where graziers enclose their livestock.
Snow starts in late September, making the Deosai Plains inaccessible, almost by the end of November. The entire plains remain snow bound till late May to early June and become accessible after mid July. The weather throughout the months of July and August remain pleasant, with days and chilly nights. Humidity is high during the monsoon season and annual precipitation ranges from 500 to 750mm. Most frequent winds are from the southwest towards the northeast, while winds from east to west are least frequent. Maximum mean temperature remains between 8.1⁰C – 12⁰C (recorded in July 1993) and Minimum mean temperature falls below freezing point (-16⁰C in December-January).
Sheosar Lake is the main water reservoir in Deosai. There are many other small lakes and marshlands, scattered throughout the area. The water is fresh and remains frozen during the winter season. The water table gradually adjusts to the seasons, lowering in the winter and gradually rising during the summer.
Biographically, Deosai National Park has a very interesting position. Two biogeographically important mountain ranges merge in Deosai; the Himalayan and Karakorum-Pamir highlands. It is a place of richest biodiversity in the Northern Pakistan, as species channeled through Karakorum mountain range.
Deosai plains are alpine zone lying between sub alpine and glacial fields. Shrubs and forbs are dominant. The climax vegetation represents forbs in meadows. Only goats and yaks can utilize this rugged area. At the higher altitude (Above 14000ft) the topography is extremely rugged and grazing is almost impossible.
The plains are a floral extravaganza of the summer months with a recorded number of 582 species (Stewart, 1961), 342 (Woods et al., 1997) and most recent 406 species (Nawaz et al., 2006). The flora of Deosai is influenced by four major floristic elements: Boreoalpine and
Circumpolar; the Euro- Siberain; Southern European/ Mediterranean and Siberian-Mongolian (Mani, 1978).
Examples of genera found with their affinities, include; Boreoalpine & Circumpolar-species of zoogeographic and floral affinities. Ranuncullus, Saxifraga, and Polygonum; Euro-Siberain- Geranium, Bupleurum and Oxytropis, southern European/Mediterranean-Delphinium, Swerita and Thymus, Siberain-Mongolian-Saussurea, Lagotis and Pleurospermum. Other minor floristic elements on the plains such as the Sino-Himalayan, included Cremanthodium and Picrorhiza (ANNEX 13)
Deosai also hosts a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna: documented fauna include 11 species of large mammals, 13 small mammals, 130 birds, 3 freshwater fishes, one amphibian and two reptiles (Nawaz et al., 2006). Deosai has been recognized as the main stronghold of Himalayan Brown bears (Schaller 1977, Roberts, 1997) since long (ANNEX 11).
Himalayan Brown Bear :(Ursus arctos)
The Himalayan Brown bear is a highly threatened species in Pakistan. Its population is sparse and scattered throughout the Gilgit-Baltistan, KPK and AJK. The largest population in South Asia has been recorded in the Deosai National Park and their current population is more than 62 individuals, which indeed is quite below the minimum viable population size established by past researchers.
Most recent counting (September – October 2015) of Brown bears in Deosai National Park by DNP staff (DNP, 2015) is shown in the table below:
Table 1: Population of Himalayan brown bear in Deosai National Park (GB)
|S. No||Location||Survey block||Male||Female||Cubs||N.D||Group|
|3||Fia Long and Lama Long||Bara Pani||3||1||2||6|
|5||Kala Pani||Yourwlli Nullah||2||2|
|6||Sir Sanghri Top||Sheosar||1||1||2|
|8||Nullah 1,2,3||Murtaza Top||3||2||5|
|10||Bari La II&IV||Bari La||2||2|
|Sub total (A)||18||13||7||2||40|
|Sub total (B)||11||15||7||1||33|
Himalayan Ibex (Capra ibex sibirica):
Himalayan ibex mainly occupies peripheral hills of the Park. A herd of 14 animals were sighted during the survey by HWF in 1994. The head size ranged from 2-15 individuals, which apparently seems to have grown with the passage of time. A recent survey by DNP field staff shows a total of 203 animals, including 74 males, 68 females, 33 kids and 9 non determined (DNP, 2015).
Snow leopard (Panthera unica):
Deosai National Park is not a well-preferred area for Snow leopards, mainly due to its landscape and geography. This species is reported to inhabit the steep high elevation areas surrounding Deosai plateau including the slopes of Nanga Parbat, Skardu and Astore valley.
Tibetan Red Fox (Vulpus vulpus Montana):
This is amongst the common species in the DNP and its surrounding valleys. During a four years survey, evidences of about 120 animals and 13 actual sighting of the animals were recorded (HWF, 2002).
Golden Marmot (Marmota caudata):
The Golden marmot, seen widely across the whole of Deosai Plains, is the most common mammal living in colonies appearing as large earth mounds with multiple inlets. Marmot spends most of the summer by feeding and basking and then hibernates by mid September till March.
A total of 130 species of birds have been recorded (Mirza, 2005, 2008) including 58 species of migratory waterfowls, from Deosai plains. These include passage migrants, vagrant, resident, breeding and irregular visitors. Many of the species breed in Deosai and are found over a large range. Commonly seen birds in Deosai include the Horned lark, Citrine wagtail, Mountain finch, Shylark, Eastern swift, Crag martin, Ehite capped redstart and Dippers. Waterfowls observed in Deosai include the Common teal, Shoveler, Merganser, Shanks, Curlew, Sandpiper and Great black-headed gull. A few rare species of raptor also occur in the area, these including Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common kestrel, long legged buzzard and Northern Hobby are also seen in the park area (ANNEX 12).
Fresh Water Fishes:
The fresh water resources of Deosai harbor several fish species, which are predominantly Palaearctic with elements of central Asian Highlands and some mix of one species called Diptychus pakistanicus (Mirza & Khan, 1987). Three species have been reported from the water bodies of Deosai (Rafique, 2000, 2001) viz., High-Altitude Loach (Triplophysa stoliczkae Steindachner, 1866), Tibetan Snow Trout (Diptychus maculatus Steindachner, 1866), and Indus Snow Trout (Ptychobarbus conirostris Steindachner, 1866). The High Altitude Loach is abundant in Gultari River whereas, Tibetan Snow Trout and Indus Snow Trout are abundance in the waters of Deosai National Park (HWF, 2014).
A total of 13 small mammals have been recorded from different areas of Deosai Plateau. They include Sorex thibetanus, Crocidura pergrisea, Crocidura pullata, Mustela erminea, Ochotona roylei, Hyperacrius fertilis, Alticola royali, Sicista concolor, Apodemus rusiges, Rattus turkestanicus, Marmota caudata, Eoglaucomys fimbriatus, and Pipistrellus pipistrellus (HWF, 2014).
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Deosai has relatively fewer species of reptiles and amphibians than the lower mountains and plains. According to Woods et al. (1997), a total of three species, including one frog namely Kashmiri Mountain Toad (Scutiger occidentalis) and two lizards (skinks) viz., Himalayan Ground Skink [Skincella (Lygosoma) ladacensis himalayanus] and Glacier Skink [Skincella (Lygosoma) ladacensis ladacensis] have been recorded from DNP.
Invertebrates found in the Deosai are potential food source for Brown bear. According to HWP, survey (mid June-mid September 1999), a total of 43,751 specimens represented 4 classes, 13 orders and 102 families. Arthropods also represent a potential food source for Brown bear and contribute to all over functioning of the ecosystem of Deosai.
VEGETATION BASED MAJOR HABITATS IN DEOSAI NATIONAL PARK
The following six habitat types delineated primarily on the basis of the vegetation types (classes) as well geomorphology and topography were marshy habitat, grassy habitat, stony habitat, rocky habitat, water, and permanent snow fields (Nawaz & Swenson, 2006):
Table 2: Vegetation based habitat types in Deosai National Park
|Marshy vegetation||Prevalent in low-lying areas and depressions. It is dominated by various species of Poa and Carex, and Aconitum violeceum. Other common species of this habitat are Heracleum candicans, Cerastium pusilum, Veronica anagalis-aquatica, Rhodiola heterodonta, R. tibetica, Euphrasia densiflora, Lamatogonium coeruleum, Pedicularis pyramidata, Aconitum heterophyllum, Thalictrum alpinum, Primula macrophylla, Saxifraga flagellanis sub sp. stenophylla, Minuartia biflora, and Sausseria atkinsonii||26|
|Grassy vegetation||Generally associated with flat or undulating areas, dominated by Poa species. Other associated herbs include Bistorta affinis, Agrostis vinealis, Aconogonon rumicifolium, Rumex nepalensis, Galium boreale, Leontopodium leontopodinum, Oxytropis cashmiriana, and shrubs include Tanacetum falconeri, Potentilla grandiloba, Artemesia spp., Aster falconeri||475|
|Stony vegetation||The substrate is stony, dominated by herbs like Saxifraga flagelaris, Oxytropis cashmiriana, Oxyria digyna, Lagotis kachmiriana, Aconogonon rumicifolium, Cerastium cerastoides, Cerastium pusillum, and shrubs like Sausserea falconeri, Senecio analogus, and Androsace baltistanica||413|
|Rocky vegetaion||Rocky or gravel areas that are generally devoid of vegetation or have a sparse cover of plants such as Sorosaris dysaie, Saussuria gnaphalodes, Elymus longi-aristatus, and Saxifraga jacquemontiana, Aster flaccida, Rhodiola wallichiana, and Primula macrophylla||526|
|Water / Wetland||There are many mosses, swamps, streams, ponds, pools, peat lands and lakes, all over the Deosai plateau. These small and big ecological niches contain floral and faunal diversity of the Park. The prominent lake on Deosai is Sheosar Lake, which fulfills almost all criteria to be designated as the Ramsar Site.||12|
|Snow||Areas of permanent snow||81|
Source: Ecological Baseline (HWF, 2014)
CULTURAL AND SOCIO ECONOMIC FACTORS:
Population, education, health and sources of Income:
Eight valleys, namely, Sadpara, Katesho, Dhappa, Karabosh, Gultari, Das-Khirim, Shagarthang and Bubin, serving as entry points into the Park, surround the park. The total population of the villages is approximately 12,584; living in 1,321 households. Balti and Shina are the two major
languages but a minority of Gujjars also speaks Gujjari. Noorbukhshi, Shia and Sunni are the main sects of Islam that inhibit the surrounding valleys. There are about 17 primary and 5 middle schools in the Park vicinity. Literacy rate is comparatively low amongst the Park communities (33.89%; DCR 1998). Subsistence agriculture and livestock herding are the two major sources of livelihood and family income, whereas, a limited number of people, particularly from an age range of 20-50; are also associated with the tourism industry.
Land use for Grazing:
There is no permanent settlement on Deosai Plains due to extreme weather conditions. However, Gujar Bakarwals migrating from the lowlands have been using Deosai as grazing fields for their livestock and also sometimes use to sell off their animals to local people, particularly to Astori and Balti dwellers.
In the summer months, people from the surrounding villages take advantage of the vegetation for gazing. Summer grazing is again restricted from mid July till August. The adjacent villages have a gentlemen agreement and verbal understanding amongst themselves on grazing areas. As per the agreegment, villagers from the Satpara valley graze their herds in the east, Katichu and Mehdiabad in the eastern and southern fringes, Chilam and Das villagers graze their livestock in the eastern and southern parts of the plateau.
The central Deosai and its Western flanks are grazed by the nomadic Gujjars who travel to the area from the plains Punjab. The Gujjars dominate the Chota Deosai and seldom cross over to the eastern side of the main stream due to long standing rights there of the people of Gultari area.
Current Use and Names of Pastures in and around DNP
The pastures to the North East of Desoai viz., Ribo Nulah, Sermik, Shilla and Katisho nullahs, common to the people of Astore and Skardu. Rgichan; the summer livestock campe with in the boundary limits of Deosai is used by people of Mehdiabad whereas Barilla is the herding shed outside the boundaries of DNP.
To the East of Deosai are; Ginyal, Karobosh, Koshoq (to wards Barillah), Maryawo and Bara Pani Nullah (towards Bara Pani) are used by people of Gultari.
Chota Deosai, Showaran, Safaid nullah, lain nullah and Murtaza top are in the South of Deosai,
and mostly used by Nomads because it is bit far from the park communities.
The current issues of these pastures are mainly over grazing, increased number of livestock, ill managed tourism, insufficient staff for watch & ward and other management issues and yearly increased number of Nomads (Zakir, 2009).
There is no permanent infrastructure, other than the jeep roads and trails crossing the plains. A rest house near the Kalapani is formally operated by the public works department (PWD) and now lies in ruins. The bridge on the jeep road crossing the Barapani is build around mid July every year and planks are put off by late-October to avoid damage from the winter snow.
The ideal tourist season in Deosai starts from mid June till the end of September, depending upon the prevailing weather conditions and accessibility through the only jeep able road. The flow of local tourists to Deosai plains is usually high as compared to national and international tourists, making tourism an economically least productive activity for the resident communities.
MANAGEMENT HISTORY OF DEOSAI NATIONAL PARK
Purpose of Establishment:
At an average height of 13,000 feet above mean sea level, Deosai Plains are amongst the highest Plateaus in the world, which sustain a remnant population of Himalayan Brown bears in South Asia. The purpose of the Park is to protect the Himalayan Brown bears and their habitat to:
- Allow the animal some relief from humans as predators
- Provide the animals with unrestricted freedom of movement
- Allow animal to feed in the wild according to its instinctive behavior, and
- Promote reproduction and well being of offspring in its natural habitat
A viable population of the Himalayan brown bear is essential to allow the ecological balance to flourish on Deosai Plains to sustain itself. It is common knowledge that endangered species like the brown bear need replenishment in their population. Once the total population of a species falls below a certain threshold level, it is only matter of time before that species faces extinction.
Since the area has been under severe threat of human influence and exploitation because of excessive grazing, resource use for livelihoods and unchecked tourism, so Government of Gilgit- Baltistan (then called Northern Areas Administration) declared some 3626 Km2 (1400 square miles) area of the Plateau as National Park, in 1993.
Park rules and regulations:
Definition: According to Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Preservation Act, 1975 and section 2(k), National Park means a comparatively large area of outstanding scenic merit and natural interest with the primary object of protection and preservation of scenery, flora and fauna in the natural state to which access for public recreation, education and research may be allowed (A Ahmed 1995)
Declaration of National Park:
According to Section V of the Northern Areas Wildlife Preservation Act (1975), extended to whole of Gilgit-Baltistan, the Provincial Government may by a notification declare any area as a National Park, Game Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary and may alter the boundaries of such areas from time to time as deemed necessary.
Acts Prohibited in a National Park:
According to section 7 of the Wildlife Act, 1975, the following acts are prohibited in a national park:
- Reside inside a national park
- Hunt, kill or capture, or be found in circumstances showing that it is an intention to hunt, kill or capture any animal in a national park
- Carry fire arms, explosives or any other types of hunting weaponry into the national park
- Introduce any domestic animal or allow a domestic animal to stray into a national park. Any domestic animal found in a national park may be destroyed or seized by or on the orders of an authorized officer and shall be disposed off in accordance with the instructions of the Chief wildlife Warden
- Cause any bush or grass fire or cut, destroy.
- Cultivate any land in a National Park
- Pollute any water in or flowing into a national park
- Introduce any exotic animal or plant in to a national park area
- Pick any flower or remove any plant, animal, bird, fish, stone or other natural object from a national park
- Write on, cut, carve or otherwise deface any building, mountain, notice board, and tree. Rock or other object, whether natural or otherwise, in a national park
- Fail to comply with the lawful orders of an officer while in the park
- Discard any paper, tin, bottle or litter of any sort in the national park
These acts are prohibited except in cases where Provincial Government provides permission, for scientific purposes or for the improvement of the park or in exceptional circumstances authorize or direct any act (Khan. 1995).
DNP was notified as national park in 1993, but no proper management system was established, till the time when Himalayan Wildlife Project (HWP) developed a draft management plan for DNP, based on its two years socio-economic and ecological research on the plateau. Financial constrains and lack of a proper management guideline, hindered the way of government to keep in place, an appropriate management system.
Legal and management issues aggravated day-by-day but due to some Interventions of HWP, such as fodder development, water supply system, awareness about park’s resources and trainings in wildlife survey, engrossed the attention and interest of communities for park management. On the basis of these benefits, communities took part in conservation efforts such as wildlife surveys, control on excessive grazing, illegal hunting, extraction of medicinal plants and cutting of natural forests.
Realizing the participation of community as strength, the government, established Directorate of the Park, at Skardu. Thirteen game watchers, a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Range Forest Officer under the supervision of DFO Skardu were placed in the directorate to protect park resources.
From 1996-1997, Park staff, researchers from HWF with assistance from South African National Parks Board and US fish and wildlife services, initiated Bear immobilization and radio telemetry programme. Radio Collars were placed on seven Bears and their movements were tracked. On the basis of data collected, the park was divided into the following three major ZIONES for management purposes:
The zone which is unaltered with satisfactory, Brown bear population. The main purpose of this zoning is to protect Brown bear in its natural habitat. It comprises the Central and South Eastern part of the Park.
Recreational and extensive use zone:
This zone is composed of natural and altered areas, including those in need of recovery, at an area of about sixty meters on either side of the jeep roads crossing Deosai Plains. It has outstanding landscapes, samples of significant ecosystems and areas of recreation and educational activities. Sheosar Lake is also included in this area. The main aim of this zoning is to increase recreational and educational activities for socio-economic upliftment of the communities.
The zone consists of the areas where the local population has traditionally grazing rights. It comprises of the area within the park boundaries excluding the protective and recreational zone. The purpose of this zoning is to permit traditional land use for grazing to preserve the economic value of grazing for local communities.
Such activities increased the awareness of local communities and park’s administration to further stretch the horizon of activities for conservation of natural resources of the Park. In this course of action, Gilgit-Baltistan Forest and Wildlife Department developed a five years (2003- 2008) PC-1 with provision of 26.206 million Pak Rupees. Few interventions of the project, added more to the conservation efforts such as population of Brown bear increased (from 19 animals in 1993 to 73 animals in 2015) as a result of the proper watch and ward mechanism, implementation of Park’s rules and regulations, research on ecology of the park, boundary pillars placed for the delineation and community involvement in management of the Park resources. Based on the lessons learnt from this and other such projects, office of the Conservator Parks and Wildlife (Gilgit-Baltistan) intended to revise and update the draft management plan prepared by HWF for GoGB in 2010. This present drat Management Plan is a result of that effort.
EMERGING COMMUNITY CONCERNS, MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND CONSERVATION CHALLENGES
Summary of findings from the field
Deosai plains being located in between the districts of Astore and Skardu naturally provide resource use rights and grazing stakes to the peripheral communities of Astore and Skardu. Alongside, the Gujjar Bakarwals1 (nomad herders) also visit the plains during summer months with their domestic herds for grazing and use the forage, forest, fish, peatlands and water resources for food, fuel, fodder and medicine during the days of their stay on the plateau.
After establishment of the park in 1993 followed by somehow enforcement of Park regulations, the communities were restricted from the use of park resources, affecting their traditional and customary resource use rights. Since socio-economic conditions of the resident communities were abysmally below normal standards, so the imposition of rules and restrictions without prior consultation and provision of adequate alternative sources of livelihood and family income led to indispensable community concerns and even to community conflicts over resource use rights and concessions. Lake of appropriate management systems further aggravated the concerns of dependent communities on conservation and protection of Park’s biodiversity.
Keeping in view the importance of community based management of a protected area; Park authorities intended to involve buffer zone communities of the Park in its management. For this purpose, the park directorate jointly with WWF-Pakistan initiated a detailed consultative process with the concerned communities of Skardu and Astore districts. Consultative sessions and community meetings were held at Skardu and (Chillim) Astore to identify key stakeholders, fundamental administrative and management issues, resource use concerns and conservation challenges and to seek suggestions for improved management and development of park resources.
A brief over view of the key findings from those interactive sessions is given below:
Community interest in Park management:
Both the stakeholder communities of Astore and Skardu realize the economic importance and socio-ecological significance of Deosai plains, as they consider Deosai as an important biodiversity hotspot and more interestingly as a peculiar habitat for Himalayan Brown bear in the whole of Asia. They also think that, its geographical location makes it an important strategic point in the country and also main source to connect them with the rest of country, being situated at the cross roads of western Himalayas, linking Astore, Skardu, Gilgit, Chillas, Azad Kashmir and many other surrounding valleys.
1 Gujjar bakarwals are the nomad herders who travel with their animals from Kashmir to Deosai for summer grazing.
Agriculture and livestock are the two major sources of livelihoods and according to the local people, both the sources of their family income do flourish due to Deosai as it provides water for irrigation and drinking. It’s forests are only sources of fuel and firewood for them, lush green alpine pastures provide fodder and grazing grounds to their livestock and offer medicinal herbs to poor villagers. However, having a natural tourist destination in the shape of Deosai next to their homes, they are quite optimistic and hopeful that, one day, it would be a great source of income for them and their families.
Contrary to the hopes that they have attached to Deosai, they appear to be least satisfied with the prevailing park management system. They stressfully mentioned of the lack of their involvement and community based approaches yet to be adopted by the park management to engage with them for the Park. They realize that Deosai could bring a flood of economic opportunities for them, if it is managed in a sustainable way. They explicitly expressed their interest and willingness to join hands with the park management in protection and management of park resources on long term basis, given the opportunity, trust and recognition for their involvement and participation in the park management is guaranteed.
The Park was established over an area of 3626 Km2 area on December 4, 1993 and it has been almost two decades for its establishment yet its boundaries are still not properly defined, and hence, a consensus on the buffer zone communities still remains ambiguous. Desoai National Park is becoming more popular with each passing day, and so may become a worst source of conflict amongst the peripheral communities one day if the park boundaries are not defined adequately on watershed basis and the stakeholders communities identified. Moreover, Deosai is a IUCN Category I (Wilderness) Protected Area, where grazing, illegal hunting, construction and other forms of resource extraction is completely prohibited by the law, but unfortunately, at the present neither the communities nor the park management fully abide by the law. Weak enforcement of law seems to be one of the major impediments in the way of improved management of the park, which are inevitable to be addressed fully while revising the draft management plan.
Though the park encompasses land from Skardu and Astore districts of the newly titled Gilgit- Baltistan province, but the communities of Astore loudly complaint against the park administration being stationed at Skardu only. Similarly, the directorate of the park has very limited human, financial and material resources, which quite often hamper not only the Park administration but also effect field operations and deliverables in terms of effectiveness and efficiency for planning, research, implementation and monitoring. The communities also have shown their concern about disproportionate engagements in the park employment.
The stakeholder communities of Astore and Skardu are of the view that certain management issues such as unsatisfactory growth of wildlife populations, particularly that of mammals like Brown bear and Siberian ibex, the prey species, primarily due to excessive illegal hunting and poaching, and heavy influx of nomadic herds of livestock, which substantially increase competition for food, without any restrictions cause ruthless exploitation of aromatic and medicinal flora of the plateau, inflict overgrazing and cause severe land erosion, cut forests and
other woody vegetation for fuel and fire wood, increasing chance of transmission of diseases from livestock to wild animals, hunt prey species for meat, hides and trophies and kill predators mostly in retaliation, immoderate tourism has become a major source of solid waste, and introduction of dogs and other pet animals etc., which are thought to be emerging due to lack of a well designed participatory management plan, limited stakeholders participation in planning, implementation and decision making concerning park resource management, limited access of communities to park benefits including but not limited to park entry fee, grazing, employment, alternative sources of economy, diversified livelihoods and promotion of sustainable resource use practices, unmanaged tourism, inter and intra community conflicts and lack of a stewardship amongst buffer zone communities.
Moreover, issues concerning resource use rights and concessions; damages caused to community livestock and field crops by Brown bear, wolf and other predators; hindrance by the park management authorities for construction of roads through the park for community communication needs; long pending community share of Entry Fee; illegal extraction of firewood from low-lying peripheries of the park to facilitate sustainable use of the already scanty resource by dependent buffer zone communities; restriction on community use of the scrub forests for domestic energy; entrance of nomads into the park with large herds; shepherd dogs and exploitation of resources during their stay; proportionate quota in DNP staff recruitment; un- defined park boundaries; benefits to communities, such as trophy hunting, alternate fuel wood and compensation for livestock depredations further aggravate the profile of the Park issues.
These issues and threats mostly reflect community needs and reservations, which if not addressed immediately, the Park, may lose its esthetic and ecological values. Communities may lose their interest in the protection of park resources they are the main stakeholders to safe guard the Park. Their needs, would lead to increase in dependence on natural resources such as wildlife, medicinal plants and tourists. The undefined boundaries and custodian communities would result into conflicts that may increase the gap between different stakeholders and even with the park Directorate. The issue of the equal representation of both the communities in administrative setup will also result into further weakening of working relationships between the communities and the directorate, making the proper management of the park a difficult task to do.
EMERGING THREATS AND CONSERVATION CHALLENGES
Information gathered through above stakeholders consultations, careful analytical review of key documents including Rapid Assessment2, Ecological Baseline3, and Socio-economic Baseline4 reports by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (2014), and field observations made by HWF project (2014) reveal the following conservation challenges and threats to DNP:
- Encroachment into wildlife habitat by Gujjar bakarwals
Grazing of livestock in Deosai degrades the vegetation cover, and creates disturbance for wildlife. In addition to grass and plants consumed by the livestock, the nomads remove
2 Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, 2013, A Rapid Assessment of State of Management of Deosai National Park, (Rapid Assessment)
3 Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, 2014, Ecological Baseline of Deosai National Park (Ecological Baseline)
4 Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, 2014, Socioeconomic Baseline of Deosai National Park (Socioeconomic Baseline)
bushes that provide cover to the wildlife and protect the soils from degradation, for use as firewood. Horses and sheep dogs brought in by the Bakarwals threaten the wild animals, which therefore avoid the areas occupied by nomad herders. Grazing in Deosai is also a traditional practice of communities living on the northeastern borders of the park. The threat to the national park from the Bakarwals, however, is considerably higher as the Bakarwals have been rapidly expanding the number of livestock with over 24% increase during 2000- 2013 (n=5500 in 2013), and their areas of use in the recent past. As an indication the valleys of Phialung and Lamalung located northwest of the Ali Malik entrance to the park which were previously available to the bears have now been taken over by the nomads. Similarly, the nomad herders started moving into the valleys along the southern boundary of the park east of the Wolf Peak, after 2005, when the controls exercised by the Wildlife Department (Department) became lax. The areas in use and number of livestock grazed by resident communities (about 1500) has not increased that fast.
- Damage to habitat and disturbance to wildlife by visitors
Studies show that the number of visitors to Deosai has constantly been increasing ever since Deosai was notified as a protected area (HWF, 2014). Major practices observed and reported that are damaging to the park environment include off-track driving, illicit fishing and littering. It has been noted that the visitors in the absence of Park’s field staff, drive freely into the core area for bears located south of Bara Pani, primarily for off track four wheel driving and fishing, especially in the area from Shatung to Bara Pani using nets and rods. Littering is also common in high tourist influx areas like Bara Pani and the Sheosar Lake.
- Inappropriate planning of infrastructure
Deosai being a notified protected area, a strict policy of no permanent structures has been followed to date, the authorities demolished even a partially completed structure previously constructed by a local person at Shatung, to maintain the natural integrity of the Park. A building constructed close to the Bara Pani Bridge for the staff of Works Department for maintenance of the bridge, is illegitimate by all means. Allowing construction of such structures will be very harmful to the park, as this is likely to start a trend of erecting ugly concrete buildings in Deosai wilderness, a building that does not fit into this landscape will be an anomaly at the location, and its associated toilets may seep into adjacent river, which is presently of drinking water quality. Currently, the toilets maintained by the Department are at least a 100 m away from the river.
- Damage to habitat and landscape by construction contractors
Some important and useful infrastructure like bridges and roads is necessary for the visitors in terms of safety, lower costs, and reduced travel times, as well as for the Department as it improves access and helps in maintaining the integrity of the park, through due diligence, effective control and watch & ward. However, the construction contractors often not aware of the sensitivity of the Park and standard practices followed in National Parks while using local construction materials i.e., sand, stones and gravels for construction do not heed for restoration of the key habitats (fish hatching & breeding areas, marshlands and rocky areas) disturbed by construction.
The overall impact of these threats would be considerably negative on the park’s biodiversity, its conservation and sustainable management. It will directly affect the remnant population of Himalayan Brown bear and other associated wildlife species that are the main components of the ecosystem. The longer impact would be more severe; a wilderness on the face of the earth will get faded.
Possibly by defining the park boundaries and different Zones on scientific basis, involving all stakeholder communities effectively in the park’s decision support mechanisms, identifying their stakes equitably, providing them with appropriate alternatives for affected livelihoods, energy needs and for sustainable socio-economic and ecological development, ensuring an effective administrative setup, equitable distribution of park benefits amongst communities, maintaining proper check and balance in resource use especially that of pastures, fish and wildlife, the existing as well as emerging park issues can be managed , and the flow of park’s socio-economic and ecological services can be sustained in the longer term.
Appropriate measures have been proposed in the next section under Management Prescriptions to stop and eventually reverse fast degradation of Park resources, mostly originating from the above and many other threats, including climate change on top of the list (ANNEX 4).
PROPOSED MANAGEMENT POLICIES FOR DNP
- Demarcation and re-notification of Park boundaries:
The Government of Pakistan, through years of efforts brought almost 11% of the country’s total land under various categories of Protected Areas (PAs). There are some 234 Protected Areas, including National Parks (25), Wildlife Sanctuaries (98) and Game Reserves (94), Wildlife parks (3), Wildlife refuge (2) and unclassified (14) that represent a number of ecological, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems except marine and are substantially important for their ecological and socio-economic functions and values. In Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), there is a network of 38 PAs including 5 National Parks, 2 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 6 Game Reserves and 24 Community Managed Conservation Areas (CMCA) covering almost 43% (31764 Km2) of the total (72496 Km2) land area5.
DNP is an IUCN Category I National Park (Annex 3). Notified in 1993, it is still facing a diverse array of legal, administrative and management issues, simply because of unclear Park boundaries and vague notifications, lacking adequate narrative information of boundary features, their grid references and accurate maps, which result in a multitude of various resource and management confusions and complexities such as encroachments by peripheral communities, inter-departmental disputes, intra community conflicts, unrestricted grazing and use of Park areas for undesirable developmental activities. Currently, there are boundary conflicts between communities of Skardu and Astore, despite the fact that there is an unwritten agreement between the peripheral communities of both sides on grazing limits and rights in the Park vicinities.
Since DNP is an area of high ecological priority and is home to rich biodiversity, so its protection and management is essential. In order to resolve these issues and improve upon the management situation, the following policy interventions are proposed:
- Park boundaries should be accurately demarcated using GIS & RS technologies on watershed basis and validated through ground verification jointly with Park authorities, local communities, revenue department, armed forces and relevant stakeholders, and thereafter re-notified with nomenclature of “Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan” by the competent authority.
- Land use classification and zonation should be carried out using GIS & RS based species distribution and habitat maps for resource protection, research, recreation and sustainable use practices in and around the park area6.
- Sustainable resource use regulations should be introduced to integrate conservation needs of the Park with livelihood needs of dependent communities, both local and nomad herders.
- Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Preservation Act of 1975, extended to whole of Gilgit-Baltistan, should be strictly enforced for conservation and resource use regulations inside the Park.
- Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department of the Govt. of GB, 2014.
- For details, please see the Proposed Environmental Management and Zoning Plan for DNP (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife
Foundation, Islamabad (Annex 5).
Park Infrastructure and Institutional Setup:
Currently the Park Directorate is located at Skardu and a check post has been established at Chillum in Astore. The Wildlife Management Officer (PBS 18) looks after the park affairs with a meager proportion of human and material capital. Only 31 Game Watchers and Chowkidars, supervised by a Range Forest officer (BPS 14) are entrusted to take care of 3626 sq. km area in the most tough, rough and remote valleys. Out of the total, only 12 staffs are regular employees, whereas, rests of the 19 are hired on contingency basis. There is a position of the Park Director (PBS 19) but is lying vacant for the last many years. Field staff appointed to protect wildlife during harsh winters has no adequate uniform, equipment and high altitude winterized shelters. Pakistan Wetlands Program (PWP) has recently provided some uniform and accessories to the field staff, whereas Himalayan Wildlife Foundation has been providing necessary field gears and igloos to the Park staff on need bases. A First Aid Post has been established at Bara Pani by Gilgit-Baltistan Health Department for the summer season only. But still a lot is needed to be done. Due to inadequate capital, lack of equipment and insufficient field support, the Park resources are difficult to manage, and if adequate protection is not provided, the precious resource may become extinct from the Park.
As per notification, DNP falls mainly in the jurisdiction of Skardu district. Its southern and western boundaries just touch the administrative boundaries of Astore in Chillim, Bobin, and Mir Malik Pass. But contrarily, the communities from both sides equally claim inherent resource use rights inside the park as well as in its buffer zone, and hence demand for equal distribution of benefits in terms of employment opportunities, share in sustainable resource use, Park entry fee and other anticipated benefits from the Park.
These administrative and management issues can be resolved by establishing and strengthening the existing Park directorate and making it accountable for the needful care and conservation of Park and its resources, with the help of following policy interventions:
- The vacant position of Park Director and required supervisory as well as field protective staffs should be hired and placed in appropriate offices on emergent basis7.
- Capacities of the protective field staffs improved in biodiversity monitoring and wildlife management techniques from Pakistan Forest Institute (PFI), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and other relevant national and international biodiversity conservation and management institutes.
- Financial resource and capacity of the Park Directorate should be amplified manifolds, and mechanisms developed for equitable sharing of benefits amongst traditional Park users in recognition of their conservation efforts and active role in management of Park resources8.
- Park infrastructure including park offices, educational and recreational facilities, should be appropriately established on both sides of the park. Since the Park Directorate is at Skardu so office of the Wildlife Management Officer (WLMO) should be established at Chillum in Astore district, while considering social and ecological sensitivities of the Park9.
- For details, please see the proposed Institutional Development Plan for DNP (2015) by HWF (Annex 7)
- For details, please see the proposed Financial Management Plan for DNP (2015) by HWF (Annex 8)
- For details, please see the proposed Infrastructure Development Plan (2015) by HWF (Annex 9)
Participatory Park Management:
Community participation, to a greater extent has become imperative for better management of common natural resources around the world. In Deosai National Park, local communities have shown their reservations for not being consulted while designing conservation programs and sharing of benefits in the past park management efforts. Therefore, the local communities and other stakeholders have been putting halfhearted efforts and resultantly, the management objectives could not have yielded the desired results. Established in 1993, DNP could not be staged as an exemplary PA with an informed decision support system and protection mechanism. The park was established solely to protect remnant population of endangered Brown bear in Deosai plains. Although its population has increased from 19 in 1993 to 73 in 2015 but its estimated population, total count, distribution, density and viability is still questionable. Moreover, the counts of other associated prey and sympatric predator species like ibex, Snow leopard, Lynx, and Wolf also has not increased proportionately perhaps due to illegal hunting of prey species and retaliatory killing of predators, which may affect the ecological balance of the park in the longer run.
Increasing human population in the buffer zone villages, has been putting tremendous subsistence pressure on park resources. Majority of the peripheral human settlements of Shilla, Dhappa, Stakchan, Shagharthang, Karabosh, Ginyal, Matyal, Gultari, Chillim and Das Khirim are mostly concentrated in close proximity to the core and home range territories of Brown bear. Local people of these villages not only collect firewood, fodder and herbs from the local forests and pastures but also use park’s territories for grazing purposes, leaving less and less space for wild species to feed and roam around in their natural habitats. Such type of resource uses, sometimes create and intensify conflicts not only amongst communities but also with the park management.
In order to ensure community participation for improved park management has to ensure effective participation of local communities in decision-making processes as well as in sharing and distribution of tangible and non-tangible benefits from the park. The following management decisions are proposed in this regard:
- A Park Management Committee headed by the Secretary Forest, Gilgit-Baltistan should be constituted with representatives from park administration, GB Forest & Wildlife department, Armed Forces, Directorate of CKNP, Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, HWF, WWF, Police and representatives of local communities from Skardu and Astore, for course correction, strategic direction, dispute management, monitoring and evaluation of the periodical action programs. This committee should decide if a low level committee specifically for conflict management will be needed and, if so, its composition as well.
- Rural youth from different buffer zone valleys should be engaged as wildlife watchers in joint watch & guard system for effective care and conservation of wildlife in the park area.
- Local communities should be involved in restoration and improvement of degraded and denuded slopes through community based forestry plantations of native species and restriction on grazing in critical park habitats.
Integration of Livelihood needs with Park Management:
As per notification, Deosai plain is a wilderness park, falling in the Protected Area Category I
of IUCN with a little modification in nomenclature to a Category II National Park, at a later stage. In either cases, as per the PA rules, no resource can be accessed or exploited inside the park area. Cutting of forest resources, trampling of natural regeneration by livestock, illegal hunting of wild animals and birds, and excessive fishing are all restricted within the park boundaries. But due to remoteness, extreme poverty and harsh climatic conditions, local people, under the customary laws, have been given certain concessions to collect fuel wood and graze their livestock in the park vicinities. The reasons being customary resource use rights and the long tradition of the custodian department’s non scientific clang (grazing fee) based permission for nomadic grazing inside the park, which may ultimately result in a loss of flora and fish species and genetic diversity, degradation of land and aquatic habitats, higher disease transmission from livestock to wildlife and retaliatory killing of predators.
Similarly, encroachment and intensive grazing in important habitats of Brown bear and its associated wildlife, by Gujjar bakarwals (nomad herders) has also been a serious concern for wildlife in Deosai. Uncontrolled grazing degrades the vegetation cover, and creates disturbance for wildlife. In addition to grass and plants consumed by the livestock, the nomads remove bushes that provide cover to the wildlife and protect the soils from degradation, for use as firewood. Horses and sheep dogs brought in by the Bakarwals threaten the wild animals, which therefore avoid the areas occupied by nomad herders. Although grazing in Deosai (as mentioned earlier) is also a traditional practice of communities living on the northern and eastern borders of the park. The threat to the national park from the Bakarwals, however, is considerably higher as the Bakarwals have been rapidly expanding the number of livestock with over 24% increase during 2000-2013 (n=5500 in 2013), and their areas of use in the recent past. As an indication the valleys of Phialung and Lamalung located northwest of the Ali Malik entrance to the park which were previously available to the bears have now been taken over by the nomads. Similarly, the nomad herders started moving into the valleys along the southern boundary of the park east of the Wolf Peak, after 2005, when the controls exercised by the Wildlife Department (Department) became lax10.
The areas in use and number of livestock grazed by resident communities (about 1500) has not increased that fast, yet the park resources are exposed to serious issues of over exploitation due to increased dependency of local communities on park resources to meet some of their basic needs, coupled with indiscriminate grazing by nomads, which will continue and may grow further with increase in human population, changing life style and improved access. While desirable from ecological point of view, the traditional or usufruct rights of the Bakarwals are compromised but the international best practices call for special attention to the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous communities (Gujjar bakarwals can be classified as an indigenous community), while developing policies.
Therefore, satisfying the local needs depend upon several factors but largely on government policy and commitment to allocate funds to this sector, as well as skill and willingness of the park officials’ to accommodate the genuine needs of dependent communities while planning for park management. Undoubtedly the success of such an approach will depend
- Emerging threats, principles and strategies for management of DNP (2014). Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, Islamabad
largely on decisions by the Park authorities. Some of the basic needs of the local communities can be satisfied with the help of following policy decisions:
- Natural resource status and basic needs of the local communities in buffer zone valleys of the park should be assessed to explore the potential of various park resources to sustain such needs harmoniously with the local culture and tradition without directly using the park resources.
- Following the principles of sustainable development and care for culture and rights of indigenous communities, a system of regulated grazing should be developed to achieve the balance between the economic benefit that the Bakarwal community is entitled to and the harm to the environment and habitat of Deosai that results from grazing.
- Sustainable natural resource use practices should be regulated in the buffer zone outside the national park by establishing a reward mechanism for community stewardship and their participation in the park management (i.e., trophy hunting and ex-situ cultivation of medicinal plants etc.)
- Young and energetic males from buffer zone communities of the park in Skardu and Astore should be given preference proportionately in park related employment and other income generating opportunities, whereas, the women folk of both sides should be supported in additional income generation activities i.e., cultivation of medicinal herbs, wool & hair based cottage industry, fruit processing and growing cash crops etc.
- Non consumptive resource use practices like ex-situ cultivation and marketing of medicinally and economically important herbs, eco tourism promotion, and fruit processing etc. should be encouraged through various projects, where applicable, to support the local economy and livelihoods.
Eco friendly tourism activities:
Booming tourism industry in Gilgit-Baltistan is no doubt an economic blessing for the poorer mountain communities of the area, but cost of its repair, if not managed properly, may be manifolds than its sporadic profits, which the future generations may have to pay for. Deosai being one the three plateaus in GB, a huge number of local, national and international tourists visit the area during summers, but adequate measures have not been taken so far to manage the negative impacts of tourism on the park. Even the Park has no facility to collect and dispose off the garbage and filth appropriately. Solid waste alone, particularly polythene bags have been polluting the natural beauty of the spectacular landscape and also having detrimental impacts on Brown bear population. Deteriorating water quality due to air blown paper and plastic wrappers and other wastes is another emerging issue. A recent study by PWP counts 400 kilograms of solid waste; (approximately 40% biodegradable and 60% non biodegradable) being produced during the three peak months; June – August 2008 (WWF 2008). A comprehensive package of tourism is required to be devised and implemented to manage tourism and support interests of the project beneficiaries. There are no designated camping sites, and the visitors often camp in ecologically sensitive areas. Use of explosives for fishing, spread of solid waste, use of jeeps for four wheel off track driving particularly in marshy areas and most alarmingly the proposed polo festival in the heart of plains, are amongst the few major threats to the Park.
In order to promote socially acceptable and ecologically responsible tourism activities in the area, the following policy decisions are suggested:
- Visitor service places like roads, tracks, resting and dinning places, information and education facilities, fishing spots and camping sites should be developed in specified zones, to facilitate the visitors and to improve the quality of their experience and safety within the national park11.
- Trash bins should be placed at the park entry and exit points at Sadpara and Chillim for collection and safe disposal of solid wastes, and the waste take-back strategy should be promulgated through signage and other IEC mechanisms.
- Tourist information centers should be established at the park entries and equipped fully with park related educational and promotional materials like maps, brochures, pamphlets etc., for visitor’s information, education and awareness.
- The park staff placed in check posts at the park entry points should be well trained and properly uniformed to strictly check visitors and their vehicles to restrict and confiscate arms, explosives and weaponry, if found carrying any.
- Appropriate signage enchanting Park rules, regulations and ecotourism ethics with internationally accepted standards and symbols, should be displayed for visitor’s education at appropriate sites in and outside the park.
- Education and Tourism related park staffs and a few educated trained youth from the local communities of Astore and Skardu should arrange various educational and awareness activities like guided tours, nature study camps, lectures, presentations and documentaries in TICs for the park visitors.
- Recreational zones should be established and equipped to facilitate ecotourism activities like bird watching, wildlife sighting, catch & release fishing etc., for the park visitors.
- Camping should be restricted to designated camping sites only and violations strictly dealt with, if occur any inside the Park.
Single Park Authority:
DNP is closer to the border between Pakistan and the Indian held Kashmir, and so for security reasons, Pakistan army and Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts (GBS) are posted in Gultari, Minimerg, Qamari and Karmang sectors, surrounding the Park. Though there is no evidence of illegal hunt or offence by these forces inside the park yet following their own notions may interfere in the park affairs in and outside the park boundaries. For instance, they may allow some graziers, or stop others in certain areas, due to which local graziers may feel more subject to forces then to park authorities. Consequently, park rules and administration may relegate to a secondary position or no position at all. Similarly, while they are powerful in terms of legal authority, park watchers dare not to check a Forces vehicle on the park barrier even if they are sure of the presence of a trophy or wildlife carcass in it. Due to this and several other reasons, forces enjoy greater authority than the park administration would do.
Similarly, GB Public Works department has planned to construct several connectivity roads through DNP to provide links to the border villages of Skardu and Astore. Pakistan Air Force had planned to build an airbase in Deosai. Recently, a new inter district connectivity road has been passed through Deosai to link Astore with Skardu. Most of the these roads and other infrastructures’ though provide linkage, connectivity and strategic services to far off border villages and forces but simultaneously, bifurcate the core and home range habitats
11 Proposed infrastructure development plan for DNP (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation
of the endangered Brown bear and other associated wildlife species of the park, affecting their ecology, behavior and food availability at large. Legally, DNP is an IUCN Protected Area Category I National/Wilderness Park, where no such developments are lawfully permissible and allowed.
In order to manage the above situations, the following decisions are proposed:
- Generally, military activities are discouraged inside National Parks, except for study of military history in relevant PAs. However, locally stationed force units may periodically request the use of NP territory for non-combat exercises. In such a case, the Park Management should have the discretionary decision power to offer or excuse offering the Park area for such activities where appropriate following the Park rules.
- The park administration should be declared as the top authority for the park, responsible for and authorized to decide on all issues, which are either related to or have possible impact on park resources, especially about visitors and graziers. Their decision should however be considered as final.
- The local in-charge of Armed forces posted in the vicinity of the national park should be involved in Park management through clear advice from the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) to cooperate with the park officials and assist them in their duty to help protect park resources.
- Local in-charge of the Army and GBS should be held responsible for the violation of park rules, especially hunting, killing, poaching of wild animals and transportation of their trophies or removing vegetation by the force men inside the park boundaries.
- All the connectivity roads should be laid outside the core habitats of Brown bear and other associated wildlife and the fragile alpine vegetation zones.
- Conducting detailed EIA should be made compulsory/mandatory for all such projects and corrective measures taken, compulsorily as per EMP devised, to minimize their negative impacts on the Park and its ecosystem.
Linking DNP with adjacent Protected Areas:
Deosai National Park is known for its rare and unique species, richness of wild animals, birds and plants. It provides permanent habitat to endangered species of Brown bear (Ursus arctos), endemic to western Himalayas in Pakistan. Sheosar Lake and other high altitude streams, lakes, peat and marshlands of the park are luxurious habitats of migratory birds and waterfowls. Snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, Red fox, Wolf and Golden marmot are amongst other mammal species of the Park. The park and its peripheral areas are unique for highly medicinal flora, alpine pastures, forests and lake ecosystems, endowed with rich diversity of pine, birch, juniper, scrub, shrubs, bushes and a variety of medicinal and aromatic plants.
DNP is one of the few places left in Pakistan where endangered Himalayan Brown bear and other endemic species of mammals and birds are found, and their home and territorial ranges extend beyond park boundaries and even the political border between Pakistan and India. Brown bear, the flagship species of DNP has been reported to move from Deosai plains to the highlands of Indian held Kashmir across the border, and is often killed by herders and farmers in retaliation. Apparently being one and the same population, efforts to
protect the remnant population of Brown bear in DNP may not be very productive unless it is protected beyond the Park boundaries.
For this purpose, policy support is needed to establish connectivity corridors between DNP and adjacent protected areas for holistic and improved management of Brown bear and other associated wildlife species, their habitats and ecosystems through a more pragmatic national and sub regional conservation initiative. Following policy recommendations are proposed in this regard:
- Identify, establish and notify major wildlife connectivity corridors, linking DNP to adjacent protected areas for improved protection and management of Brown bear and other associated species in the region.
- Facilitate technical organizations to conduct scientific studies and pinpoint key conservation issues and suggest science based conservation measure for sustainable management of notified wildlife corridors.
The government has generally struggled to provide budget allocations infrastructure and equipment, and for the operation of protected areas, and the DNP is no exception. Rapid Assessment report (2014) points out this as the most serious issue concerning the park operations, as the field protective staff mobilized in the DNP currently lacks the necessary material, equipment, and resources to operate in conditions that are challenging considering the climate, altitude, and natural terrain of the park. GB is amongst the least developed provinces in the country, where cost of providing basic infrastructure and social services is also comparatively high in view of a challenging mountainous terrain.
Given the general shortage of resources for meeting the operational and developmental requirements of the province, funds available for wildlife management and environment tend to be limited. The park will continue to struggle for resources in these conditions, and there is a risk of the gaps increasing due to inflation and additional requirements for staff and operations associated with an increasing number of visitors. Occasional support from NGOs may help improve the situation but temporarily, if at all.
Therefore, there is a dire need for mobilizing additional resources through internal revenue generation. A level of dependence on the government for meeting the salaries of core management staff and for maintenance and operation of park offices will continue in all likelihood. However, it is possible to generate additional funds through improvement in collection of park entry fees, and permits for recreational fishing. In the long term, camping fees, and collection of fines against violations can supplement these. This approach will reduce the dependence on government funds, and could significantly reduce the shortage of funds currently being faced by the park.
As suggested by HWF in the proposed Financial Management Plan (Annex 8) for DNP12, following policy decisions are proposed in this regard:
12 Proposed Financial Management Plan (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation
- Moving from Business as Usual approach of near-total dependence on budgetary allocations to mobilization of additional resources through internal revenue generation to the extent reasonably possible and feasible.
- Putting in place a mechanism for utilization of funds collected through internal revenue generation that is transparent and efficient.
MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR DEOSAI NATIONAL PARK
Deosai plateau; is an ecological and natural asset, not at a local or regional level but at a global scale. It is home to a variety of wildlife species such a Himalayan Brown bear, Himalayan ibex, Snow leopard and Golden marmot. It is a store house of medicinal and aromatic plants; its magnificent and enchanting wetlands such as Sheosar lake, Bara Pani, Kala Pani and other streams, peats and mosses, provide important nesting and breeding habitats to a number of resident and migratory birds; harbors various fish species, small mammals and a huge account of insects. Besides this, Deosai has many water resources, streams, lakes and rivers; providing water to the downstream communities of Sadpara and Skardu valleys for agriculture, hydropower generation and many other purposes. So there is a strong social and ecological interconnectivity between and dependence on park resources and people.
In the past, few efforts were made by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (HWF) in support of GB Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department (GFFWD) to protect and conserve high valued biological resources of the park but due to many constraints including but not limited to financial and technical; desired results could not be achieved. More than two decades have passed, since the establishment of the Park (1993-2010) yet the draft management plans developed by HWF could not be approved formally for implementation due to scarcity of human and financial resources, and lack of will at various levels. As a result, the anthropogenic pressures have increased with every passing day due to immoderate tourism, excessive use of park resources by nomad herders, local communities, and visitors, which affected the ecological health of the area. Besides this the global climate change is also having serious implications for the ecology of the park in terms of declining species diversity, intensified food competition among wild and domestic herbivores, scarcity of water, early melting of snow cover and extended stay of herders in the park etc.
In such a scenario, an effective management plan is a pre-requisite for the park to protect its ecological integrity for the benefit of nature as well as surrounding communities. Therefore, WWF-Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan in collaboration with the Park directorate revised and updated the draft management plan. In due course, available literature was critically reviewed, gaps were identified, stakeholder meetings and consultative sessions were held to gather reliable information and ideas to refine the management objectives, prescriptions, proposed interventions and polices for the present management plan.
THE PARK OBJECTIVES
Ideally, the Deosai National Park aims to:
- Maintain a viable population of Brown bear and other wildlife species in the park area;
- Maintain the ecological health of the natural ecosystems and their associated biodiversity;
- Provide research opportunities to students, researchers and research institutions;
- Promote sustainable tourism and awareness as a source of education for the people of Pakistan and for socio-economic development of the custodian communities
- Promote sustainable development opportunities for the people dependent on park resources.
Purpose of the Park:
Deosai National Park was established to protect Brown Bear in its natural habitat and to maintain the ecological balance of the Deosai plateau (Park notification, 199313).
Statement of the Purpose:
Deosai is one of the highest Plateaus in the world, with a major population of Himalayan Brown bear in Pakistan, and it serves as a storehouse of the highly valued medicinal and aromatic plants; a place with higher range of high altitude wetlands and juniper forests. But continuous human interventions for subsistence, sale and other unsustainable development purposes, are causing harm to the ecological health of Deosai plateau. Therefore, a well-managed DNP is needed to conserve the biodiversity, especially the remnant population of Himalayan Brown bear through a participatory management approach to maintain sanctity of PAs in general and the natural integrity of Deosai plains in particular.
PURPOSE OF THE MANAGEMENT PLAN
Main purpose of the management plan is to maintain and regulate ecological and biological resources of the Park and to minimize the negative impact of the existing as well as emerging conflicts between the conservation needs of the park resources and livelihood needs of the dependent communities.
Objectives of the Management Plan
Specific objectives of the Management Plan include:
- Protection of Brown bear and other wildlife species in the park.
- Protection of medicinal and aromatic flora of the park.
- Maintenance of the ecological characteristics of the park with focus on wetlands and juniper forest ecosystems.
- Protection of the park habitats against fragmentation, encroachment and diversion of its aquatic resources.
- Promotion awareness as a source of education for the people of Pakistan and for socio- economic development of the custodian communities.
- Promotion of sustainable development opportunities of sustainable tourism for the people living in the buffer zone valleys of the Park.
- Connecting Deosai plateau with other natural habitats in the immediate and further vicinities.
- Promotion of research as a basis for management decisions for the park.
MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES AND PRESCRIPTIONS:
To achieve the objectives of the management plan, result oriented actions are essential, which are explained separately for each objective in the lines below:
13 Notification of the Deosai National Park by the then Chief Secretary Northern Areas (1993).
Objective 1; Protect Brown bears and other wildlife species
The Deosai plateau is one of the potential habitats of Himalayan Brown bear not only in Pakistan but also in the whole of Asia. It also harbors significant populations of some other important wildlife species such as; Snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, Tibetan wolf, Red fox, Musk dear and Ladakh urial (HWF, 2014). With a growing human population enjoying improvised life styles in the park’s peripheries, its biodiversity has been facing many threats, including the following:
- Un-natural deaths of Brown bear due to direct killing and food losses
- Overgrazing of pastures by livestock of the local and nomad herders
- Un sustainable developments and encroachments, resulting in the shrinkage of natural habitats, and
- Habitat disturbance caused by sheep dogs and other pet animals taken into the park by local as well as nomadic herders
To address and cope with these issues, the plan suggests the following measures:
Establish and Strengthen watch and ward mechanism:
In order to control poaching and hunting of wildlife in general and killing of Brown bears in particular, establish and operationalize a strong joint watch and guard system through;
- Posting game watchers at critical points of the Park, such as the tourist entry and exit points, huts of nomads and local shepherds, and the Directorate of the park properly checks military and Para military vehicles for carriage of the bodies of hunted animals and trophies. Rural youth from the local communities may be engaged in the protective field staffs for effective watch & guard.
- Provide needful logistic support to field staffs like proper huts, igloos, winterized sleeping bags, mattresses and other field equipment i.e., binoculars, spotting scopes, wireless phones etc., uniform and proper food for adequate care and protection of wildlife round the year.
- Training and capacity building of the park’s protective field staff in wildlife surveys, assessment, monitoring and management techniques; Basic animal care; and First Aid etc.
- Introduce Species Monitoring and Reporting Tools (SMART) for zero wildlife poaching and trafficking in the park areas.
Display rules and regulations for the Park:
Develop strong rules and regulations for the park concerning illegal hunting, poaching, capturing, fishing and entry of dogs and other pets into the park area and also related to other human activities that may cause pollution of water bodies and harm to flora and fauna of the park; and display them at various locations of the Park where there is visitors entrance, exit and stay i.e., camping sites, fishing and entry points.
Lake of coordination, lack of awareness and rising conflicts over resource use rights and concessions; are the biggest challenges for improved management of the park, so to bring together all the concerned communities from Skardu and Astore, the Plan suggests the following actions;
- Identify the concerns of communities over the rights and concessions being exercised by the locals since ages, through detailed community consultations;
- Establish the Park Management Committee (PMC) as the apex forum with adequate representation of dependent park communities from Skardu and Astore, relevant government and non-government actors and locally active organizations, to ensure effective participation of all relevant stakeholders in the decision making process, benefit sharing, conflict resolution and park management;
- Build the capacity of all involved partners, communities and other stakeholders (inclusive of Gujjar bakarwals) for improved watch & guard and conduct awareness sessions on conservation related issues of the park;
- Hold exchanges and exposure visits for local activists and partners from Astore and Skardu to KVO, Ghulkin, Bunji, Qurumber and other community managed conservation areas in and outside GB, to foster people to people exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas;
- Establish and strengthen the Park related community based organizations on both sides of the park through various institutional strengthening and capacity building initiatives;
- Provide different economic incentives to improve livelihoods and living standards of the local people in the Park’s buffer zone, through various sustainable resources use interventions i.e., community share from park income, trophy hunting and ex-situ cultivation of medicinal plants etc.
Establish GIS based Decision Support System:
GIS has now become an important decision support tool for science-based management of natural resources, particularly in Protected Areas. Most of the experts globally are using GIS based environmental databases to collect, collate, analyze and interpret scientific information about key research parameters to make informed decisions for natural resource management, including wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, the directorate of DNP is still lacking in any such facilities. Considering the fact that the state of natural resources in and around the park is dynamic, communities living in the peripheries, so, to monitor ever changing conditions of both the natural resource and the community, the park management should have an appropriate GIS decision support system available for implementation. In order to do so, the plan suggests the following activities:
- GIS based delineation of the park boundaries
- Community consultation and ground validation of the park boundaries for accurate demarcation
- GIS map of the Park with its buffer zone communities
- Land cover classification, zonation and GIS mapping to designate strict protection; ecotourism & recreation; livestock grazing; wildlife; restoration and special use zones in the Park and its buffer zone.
- GIS maps showing distribution and concentration of endangered, threatened and rare species and their habitats
- Appropriate mapping of all the high altitude wetland resources of the park.
Declare the habitat of Brown bear as Core zone:
The part of the Park, where there is a greater concentration of Brown bears being highly sensitive; should be declared as core zone and restricted for all of the following activities;
- Grazing by livestock and nomads’ invasion
- Stay, roaming, camping and fishing by tourists & visitors
- Flow of traffic and parking
- Entrance and stay of people in larger numbers
Identify grazing and tourists’ use zones:
Deosai is losing its ecological characteristics day-by-day just because of the excessive use of Park’s resources by communities and visitors. The major impact of such anthropogenic activities is directly on the resident wildlife populations, particularly that of Himalayan Brown bear, so to help the park, maintain its ecological balance and integrity and to control undesired human activities, the park should have the grazing and tourist zones notified; for which the plan suggests the following actions;
- Grazing should be allowed only in the notified grazing zones on purely research based scientific information using the recommended socially feasibly and ecological acceptable grazing systems.
- Regular vaccination of the livestock before entering into the park’s peripheries / buffer zone pastures shall be carried out jointly with the GB Livestock/Animal Husbandry department.
- Restrict grazing near the water bodies to control contamination and pollution of water resources through the Park’s effective watch & guard system.
- Leisure, stay and camping should only be allowed in the devoted tourist use zones
- Appropriate solid waste management, including placement of properly designed trash bins at the park entry points and key tourist sites only; otherwise, take-back strategy shall be adopted.
- Complete restriction on carrying plastic bags and other non biodegradable and toxic wastes into the Park areas, rather take-back approach should be adopted and monitored by the Park staff at all entry and exit points; particularly at Chilim and Satpara.
- Carrying musical instruments, explosives, arms and other sources of noise into the park and their use beyond personal amusement shall not be allowed
The following actions are proposed by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation to manage grazing pressures exerted by Gujjar Bakarwals in DNP:
Table 3: Measures for management of grazing pressures from nomadic herdsmen in DNP
|Encroachment of Gujjar Bakarwal camps in Brown bear core zone has been identified as a major cause for the stagnation of the brown bear population. Moreover,||
|livestock grazing by this community causes degradation of habitat and disturbance to
|representative in order to implement policies with their participation.
|Removal and burning of bushes for fuel by Gujjar Bakarwal.
Bushes provide cover for the brown bear and are a key habitat, and prevent soil
|Wild animals feel threatened by horses and sheep dogs and avoid areas close to their camps.||
Protection of the associated wildlife species and their habitats:
Deosai is home to about 24 mammalian species. Predators other than Brown bear, like Snow leopard, Himalayan wolf and Tibetan red fox and associated prey species mostly ungulates i.e., Himalayan ibex, Musk dear, Ladakh urial and Golden marmot; in or around DNP play a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance and health of the Park, so they should also be given due protection by:
- Controlling illegal hunting and killing of prey and predator species
- Establishing an effective watch & guard mechanism involving energetic youth from the buffer zone villages
- Strengthening community based conservation practices (in buffer zone valleys only)
- Introducing trophy hunting programs in potential buffer zone valleys as an incentive in recognition of the community’s support to park management
- Introducing controlled or rotational grazing systems in the resource use zones (pastures) of the park
- Implementing community led pasture management and livestock insurance schemes to stop retaliatory killings of the top predators and to improve pasture health conditions
- Establishing baseline information to know the current status and population of wildlife species inside the park and in its buffer zone habitats, and for their future monitoring
- Conduct regular wildlife surveys, biannually, to appraise population structure and other wildlife ecology related research parameters, for science based management of the park resources
A key aspect in zoning for national parks is consideration of both, use and conservation. In order to strike a balance between use and conservation of resources, while keeping conservation as the priority, without compromising the traditional rights of the dependent local communities
- CORE ZONE (IUCN Category Ia): A strict nature reserve maintained to ensure conservation of the Brown Bear;
- SPECIES MANAGEMENT ZONE (IUCN Category IV): Areas designated for protection of key habitats for different species of the park;
- WILDERNESS ZONE (IUCN Category Ib): Areas specified to ensure protection of large unmodified to slightly unmodified landscapes, retaining their natural character;
- SUSTAINABLE USE ZONE (IUCN Category VI): Areas specified for sustainable utilization of natural resources by local communities, visitors and the nomad herders;
- RECREATIONAL ZONE (IUCN Category VI: Areas specified for camping sites and non- commercial fishing activities in the park.
14 See proposed Environmental management and Zoning Plan (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, Islamabad (Annex 5).
Table 4: Description of the proposed protective and resource use zones for Deosai National Park
Zone Relevant IUCN Category
Purpose Management Guidelines
- Core Zone/Strict Nature Reserve
/species Management Areas
IUCN Category Ia and ‘Wildlife Sanctuary
IUCN Category IV
To ensure conservation of the Brown Bear.
To ensure protection of key habitats for different species of the DNP. Includes areas which form important habitats, such as fish breeding grounds, marshes, bear hibernation areas, etc. e.g. Kala Pani, Bara Pani, Shatung River.
- No construction allowed.
- Strict protection of all biodiversity, habitats.
- Strict enforcement of fines.
- Strict limitations on entry through permit from the Park authorities and accompanied by park staff.
- No construction allowed.
- No construction allowed.
- No extraction of any kind permitted.
- Limited entry, visitors allowed in periphery of these areas, but going inside these areas is prohibited.
- No off track driving.
- Wilderness Area
- Sustainable Use
- Intensive Visitor Use
IUCN Category Ib Wilderness area
IUCN Category VI Protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources
IUCN Category VI
Protected areas with sustainable
use of natural resources
To ensure protection of large unmodified to slightly unmodified
landscapes, retaining their natural
Including areas specified for sustainable use by local communities and the Gujjar- Bakarwals.
Including areas such as roads/tracks, campsites and designated fishing zones.
- No construction allowed.
- Visitors are allowed unaccompanied.
- Camping is allowed by permit.
- Tight controls are maintained on number of visitors entering these areas.
- Selected activities that are important for community livelihoods permitted with restrictions and subject to results of monitoring,
- Visitors are allowed unaccompanied.
- Visitor activities permitted with restrictions to manage habitats within the zone and in the adjacent zones and subject to results of monitoring,
- Camping and fishing is allowed in designated areas only.
- Buffer Area Areas outside the DNP that have relevance to the conservation of the Brown Bear and other wildlife in DNP.
- Community engagement for protection of species that seasonally migrate to and from DNP or enjoy a protected status
Objective 2: Protect medicinal and aromatic flora of the park
Deosai plateau is known for its medicinal and aromatic flora, which contributes to maintain a healthy ecosystem of the park and also is beneficial to the local people in terms of medicinal use and as a source of income, if used judiciously. So far, more than 342 species of plants belonging to 142 genera and 36 families have been reported from Deosai (Woods et al., 1997). Unfortunately, with the growing population and increasing environmental issues, over exploitation of these plants is increasing day by day. Besides these anthropogenic impacts, climate change may also be a factor, in limiting the growth and production of medicinal herbs. It is very essential to maintain this critical component of Park’s ecosystem for the benefit of nature and people so the following actions can be taken in this regard;
- Conduct scientific studies jointly with leading national research institutions and universities, like NARC, KIU, AHMRO, Qarshi Industries, and others to assess the current status of medicinal and aromatic plants in the park (species, communities, density and abundance etc.)
- Conduct a comprehensive ethno botanical study of the Park and its buffer zone to explore indigenous uses of the medicinal herbs by local communities
- Restrict the use and extraction of the plants from the wild except for research purpose at least for a few years; based on the findings of the research take some conservation measures, as would be proposed in the study
- Develop a marketing mechanism for medicinal plants and use the revenue generated; in a ratio of 80:20 between communities and government, which may be done in collaboration with WWF, Qarshi, Hamdard, Zeera biscuits, Fresco sweets and other relevant industries
- Conduct continuous research for monitoring the health of the critical plant species and habitats
- Restrict grazing by livestock in areas where there is highest concentration of the medicinal, aromatic and economically important herbs
- Conduct research for ex-situ cultivation and multiplication of high valued medicinal and aromatic plants for species conservation and community development.
- Organize education and awareness campaigns for communities, visitors and other stakeholders for sustainable use of medicinal and aromatic plants
Since all the above-mentioned activities are mainly based on research so it is suggested that the key research organizations like Karakorum International University (KIU), Mountain Agricultural Research Centre (MARC) and if possible some other national Universities and research institutions, AKRSP, MM&BB, and Qarshi industries etc., should be involved in joint execution of the research component.
Objective 3; Maintain ecological characteristics of the park with focus on wetlands and Juniper forest ecosystems
Deosai is a unique, Protected Area having a diversity of various ecosystems such as High Altitude Wetlands, Juniper forests, and alpine pastures abundant in medicinal and aromatic flora and endemic fauna. Such a diverse combination of the ecosystems does provide potential habitats to a number of endemic species and ecological services to buffer zone communities. Even a minor
disturbance to any unit of this ecological complex may cause harm to all the associated ecosystems, species and ecological processes, culminating into the following threats:
- Resource exploitation and solid wastes
- Pollution and contamination of water bodies i.e., streams and wetlands
- Illegal hunting and poaching of birds, animals and injudicious catch of fish
- Cutting of forests (Juniper) and other woody vegetation in and around the Park mostly for fuel and fire wood
- Inter and intra community conflicts on land and other natural resource use rights.
In order to address the above-mentioned threats, the plan suggests the following measures;
Tourist information and awareness Centre:
Tourist information and awareness centers should be established near the entrance of the Park with the following basic facilities:
- Relevant information about wildlife, ecosystems, wetlands, treks, camping sites and hideouts
- A lecture hall to deliver lectures to tourists and visitors about DNP and its tourism ethics
- Large display sign boards, having rules and regulations for visitors and tourists;
- Signage and slogans for education and awareness of visitors
- Workshops and training facilities for local outfitters and guides on ecotourism and hospitality management,
Solid Waste Management:
Solid waste is a growing issue to wildlife in general and to Brown bears and wetlands of the park in particular. In order to manage the solid waste issue and to control pollution; following actions are recommended:
- Develop a proper solid waste management system right from; installing bear resistant dustbins to proper land fill sites for safe disposal of the waste; away from park and residential areas, preferably outside the park /at the park entry points
- Strictly implement certain rules on use of plastic bags, plastic bottles, tin food packs and other related polythene products, which are resistant for degradation and cause water and solid waste pollution
- Build washing points and public toilets at certain locations, preferably outside the park to control pollution, as a result of the human excreta and other wastes
- Control over grazing of the park habitats by livestock near the wetlands to restrict follow of organic residues into the water bodies
- Restrict the use of musical instruments and pressure horns inside the park to control noise pollution
- Built appropriate parking areas in key tourist sites to control pollution and other disturbances to flora and fauna of the park from vehicles
Control illegal hunting of wild animals, birds and fish:
Deosai is known for a number of resident and migratory birds, and the water bodies have variety of native fish but the excessive catch of fish using dynamite and electric shocks and
killing of birds and wild animals by locals, visitors and nomads cause serious harm, to the parks diversity. To protect birds, fish and wild animals, the plan suggests the following actions to be under taken only in the specified areas in DNP (Figure 5) as per the guidelines framed by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (2015) in the draft Environmental management and zoning plan for DNP (Annex 5):
- Control on illegal hunting, poaching and capturing of birds and animals, trampling of plants and unethical fishing through effective watch & guard system
- Permits for fishing and game bird shooting can be given for the Sustainable Resource Use zones on the condition that the revenue generated from such initiatives will be shared between communities and park administration in a ratio of 80:20
- Conduct a survey to know native species, their abundance, distribution and density of fish and birds in the Park
- Build hideouts and watch towers for bird watching and tourist facilitation
- Put complete ban on use of dynamites to catch fish in Sheosar Lake, Bara pani, Kala pani and other streams inside the Park
- Introduce catch and release system for fishing sports, recreation and revenue generation
- Identify potential sites for community based fish farming outside the Park to support community livelihoods and income generation, both for the park management and community development
Alternate energy sources for communities:
Communities living in the peripheral villages of the park being remote and comparatively deprived of economic opportunities are economically weak and so depend on the park’s natural resources to meet basic needs of their life. They use to live in extreme weather conditions particularly from November to February with whole area buried under snow. Heavy snowfall and frequent landslides often keep the valleys aloof of the nearer cities of Astore and Skardu. In such extreme conditions, communities need a stock of fuel or energy for cooking and to keep their houses warm. Keeping in view the imperativeness of the peoples need for fuel and fire wood, the plan suggests undertaking the following actions:
- Collaborate with the government and non government organizations to install micro hydel power stations to meet energy needs of the Park’s peripheral communities
- Explore the feasibility of other sources of the energy such as wind, bio-gas and solar panels in the park buffer zone communities
- Supply fuel efficient stoves to local people living in outskirts of the park to reduce firewood pressure on Park’s forest resources
- Help proper insulation of homes in collaboration with other organizations (BACIP)
- Education and awareness sessions on proper use and saving of energy for communities
- Initiate social and farm forestry on farm lands and waste lands
- Raise firewood plantations outside the Park to help people meet their energy needs
Manage the community conflicts:
Lack of adequate coordination and collaboration amongst major stakeholders, undefined park boundaries and ambiguous state of user rights amongst communities is a major hurdle in collaborative management of the Park and that is the strong reason for DNP to remain, without implementation of a sound management plan. To deal with this issue, the following actions are recommended;
- Identify real stakeholder communities of the Park from its buffer zone and explore their traditional and customary resource use rights, patterns and regimes from the park
- Develop appropriate guidelines for resource use as per the traditional/customary resource use rights and concessions and their history in park management
- Based on these rights make an equitable division of the revenue from conservation, amongst the Park communities, who agree with the park management to help reduce their demander on park resources
- Establish Conservation Committees both in Skardu and Astore with defined roles and responsibilities, specifically for the park management
- Establish an umbrella organization named the Park Management Committee (PMC) with equitable representation from both districts to ensure their participation in park management
- Build the capacity of these committees for participatory management of the park and use of revenue for conservation and community development
To implement these activities, concerned government departments and line agencies like Tourism Department, Local Government and Rural Development, Law Department, Water and Power Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture and Fisheries, Livestock, Forest and Wildlife Department may collaborate with the Park directorate. Besides this, the NGOs like WWF-Pakistan, Aga Khan Rural and Support Programme, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Himalayan Wildlife Foundation and other locally active projects, programmes and organizations may collaborate for joint implementation of the activities.
Objective 4: Protect the park habitats against fragmentation, encroachment and diversion of its aquatic resources
The Park has quite a few aquatic resources such as wetlands, streams and peat lands, as major components of the Park’s wetland ecosystems. With the growing population and development interventions, there may be diversions, encroachments and fragmentation of the habitat. There have been many disturbances to the aquatic resources and habitats as a result of the road construction, hydro power installation and traffic flow etc.
To safeguard the Park from such disturbances; it is essential to take the following actions;
- Discourage construction of roads, buildings and restaurants within the Park and in its immediate buffer zone;
- Under take Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all infrastructure related development projects by an impartial environmental agency, if the activity is so important; with adequate emphasis on implementation of the prescribed environmental recovery and management plans
- Restrict diversion of aquatic resources, rivers and streams from their natural courses to maintain natural sanctity of the peculiar ecosystems
- Organize educational and awareness programs for visitors, communities and other stakeholders regarding such issues
- Display park rules and regulations for acceptable flow of ecological services, traffic and visitors in the Park
Law Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Tourism Department and relevant community based organizations can collaborate mutually to implement the above-mentioned as well as other key actions proposed by WWF (2010) in the proposed management framework for Wetlands of DNP (Annex 6).
Objective 5; Provide research opportunities to students, researchers and research institutions:
So far, research has been the least bothered component in the management planning of Deosai National Park. There is not even proper data available on biodiversity of the park and other natural resources. Therefore, research is needed in various fields for science-based management of the park resources. For this purpose, the plan suggests research in the following sectors;
Biodiversity (Species & Habitats):
- Develop an inventory of all big mammals, small mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects fauna of the Park
- Study the food and dietary preferences, habitat overlap and reproduction rate of Brown bear in Deosai plains
- Formulate a comprehensive Monitoring Framework for future monitoring of the Park’s biodiversity and ecological health of Park habitats
- Conduct carrying capacity of the pastures/habitats in and outside the Park, and the grazing pressures
- Document key species of high medicinal, aromatic and economical value and record their traditional uses by the communities of the Park
- Study climate change impacts on Park biodiversity, particularly on flora and fauna species, ecosystems and livelihoods
- Engage researchers to study the Park specific prey and predator relationship; human – wildlife conflicts to suggest management options
- Study regeneration of the woody vegetation, particularly of the Juniper forest and grasslands
- Study various cultivation techniques and methods for ex-situ cultivation of medicinal, aromatic and other economically important herbs
- Study key features, functions and values of high altitude wetlands of Deosai National Park
- Appraise wetlands biodiversity; bird and fish species, their abundance, distribution and density in different wetlands of the park
- Study bird migration patterns, feeding and breeding areas in Deosai plains
- Nature and extend of peat and moss lands, their status and conservation issues in Deosai National Park.
Society and economics:
- Study nature and level of dependence of local communities on Park’s natural resources
- Study traditional and customary laws governing use of natural resources from the Park to develop a sustainable resource use and revenue sharing mechanism for the Park communities
- Study non consumptive resource use options and opportunities to explore alternative income generation sources for the traditional park users
- Study the environment, population and health relationship among park and its buffer zone communities
- Study alternate energy options, their potential in DNP and feasibility for introduction in the Park communities
Partnership with national and international research organizations:
To conduct scientific research in various fields i.e., biodiversity, wetlands and complex socio- economic strata; the Park management will identify appropriate topics for field research and will develop linkages with relevant local, national and international research organizations, Institutes and Universities. For this purpose, all the leading national and international organizations will be contacted to mobilize their relevant departments to conduct field research in the Deosai National Park. The Directorate of DNP will facilitate the research and researchers whereas;
Karakorum International University shall be the focal point for implementation of the research plans.
Objective 6; Promote sustainable tourism and awareness for education of different stakeholders and socio-economic development of the Park communities
Deosai has a lot of potential for ecotourism, with its amazing biodiversity and other natural features. Since the establishment of the Park, no any work has been done to promote ecotourism. Communities of Khunjerab National Park are getting enormous benefits from the park in the form of Park entry fee, which helps a lot in the socio-economic development of the park communities, thus enhancing their interest for better management of the Park. But the situation is different in case of Deosai National Park where park revenues are limited against high cost of the park management. Due to lack of economic incentives for the park communities, people have least interest in the management of the park resources, which leads to the following problems;
- Least interest in the protection of animals and their habitats but an increased exploitation of park resources, due to poverty and dependence
- Limited or no access of local communities to park benefits such as distribution of entry fee, grazing, proportionate employment, use of resources and tourism etc.
- Unsustainable development and encroachments, resulting into fragmentation and shrinkage of natural habitats
- Immoderate tourism, resulting into various forms of pollution, disturbances and habitat degradation
To deal with the above-mentioned issues, the plan suggests the following actions;
Promote ecotourism in the Park and its buffer zone areas;
In order to promote ecotourism in and outside the Park;
- Develop a website, with all the relevant information on it
- Design and distribute ecotourism promotional materials, such as brochures, leaflets, booklets, posters, stickers etc., on biodiversity, wetlands, treks and other touristic spots
- Design and display appropriate signage and publicity boards at appropriate locations in and outside the park
- Establish bird and wildlife hide-outs for wildlife sighting and birds watching at appropriate places in the park
- Establish visitor’s information centers at park entry points from the Astore and Skardu
- Develop treks and trails inside the Park to facilitate researchers, visitors and tourists in wildlife watching, least affecting the wildlife and their habitats, and
- Establish appropriate sites for camping, non-commercial fishing, resting & dining, rafting and canoeing in specified recreational zones, to facilitate visitors while generating revenue for the park management.
Collect and manage finances for the Park:
Despite least promotion of ecotourism in Deosai many international, national and local tourists
visit the plateau in huge numbers, particularly during the summer months i.e., June – October. So the Park administration in consultation with key stakeholders should arrange mobilizing additional resources through internal revenue generation to reduce its dependence on public sector funds to meet operational and programmatic costs. The amounts collected by the Department as park entry fees at the check posts are presently deposited in a special account operated by the DFO. Withdrawal and utilization of funds from this account for the purpose of park management has remained problematic due to absence of clearly defined policies and procedures for withdrawal and utilization, which are essentially required in view of public nature of funds. Fees are also not collected from hotel operators and from camping inside the national park. Similarly, no charges are applied for entry of vehicles in the national park.
A certain level of dependence on the government for meeting the salaries of core management staff and for maintenance and operation of park offices is likely to continue, yet it is possible to generate additional funds through improvement in collection of park entry fees, and permits for recreational fishing, later supplemented by camping fees, and collection of fines against violations. All the amounts collected from park entry fees, grazing fees, fishing permits if decided upon, fines and penalties, and any other revenues collected from the park could be
deposited in a Wildlife Conservation Fund15 and a transparent mechanism devised for judicious utilization of funds therefrom, to meet emerging needs of the park and communities living in the periphery of the park.
Although people of Baltistan have long history of working with tourists, as guides, high altitude potters and cooks but the concept of ecotourism is quite new for them. The plan suggests trainings and workshops for eco guides, trekking leaders, porters and park staff beginning with the following important fields:
- Ecotourism and hospitality management
- Solid waste management
- Guided tours and wildlife safaris
- Nature camping, guided tours for wildlife sighting and bird watching etc.
Environmentally friendly construction in the Park:
Currently available touristic infrastructure including roads, tracks, and hotels exiting in the park (Figure 5) is not only inadequate to facilitate visitors but is inappropriate as well. Except the black top road almost all remaining tracks are dirt roads. Locals operate hotels (at Ali Malik, Bara Pani, Kala Pani, and Sheosar Lake) providing very basic food and tent accommodation but in very unhygienic conditions. Similarly, informal and unregulated camping sites are being operating at Ali Malik, Bara Pani, Kala Pani, and Sheosar, where hotel operators allow visitors to camp on their premises for a small fee i.e., for Rs 200 per tent at Bara Pani.
15 For details, please see the proposed Financial Management Plan for DNP (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (Annex 8).
To promote ecotourism and control pollution, temporary constructions are needed with in the Park so the following facilities should be built at appropriate locations inside the Park or little away (reachable by a visitor), as per the Zoning Guidelines suggested in the proposed Infrastructure Development Plan (2015) by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation for the park (Annex 8):
- Public toilets
- Washing and bathing points
- Huts and campsites
- Parking areas (highly recommended to build outside the park)
- Visitor’s Centre and souvenir / gift shops
Tourism department for Gilgit-Baltistan may be the main implementing partner for this component in collaboration with Environmental Protection Agency, WWF-Pakistan, AKRSP, MM & BB and the local community.
Objective 7; Promote sustainable development opportunities for the people living around the park
Poverty, lake of community participation and needful development opportunities are the biggest hurdles in the way of participatory management of DNP. If this situation continues to stay, the ecological beauty of the park will diminish over the next couple of years, bringing in an ecological disaster; negatively impacting the ecology of the park and socio economic conditions
of the local communities. For the better management of the Park and to reduce the subsistence pressure on its natural resources; it is very essential to generate sustainable economic opportunities for the buffer zone communities. The plan suggests the following income generating sources and ways to improve living conditions of the people in this regard:
Agriculture and livestock:
Main professions of people leaving around the Park are agriculture and livestock herding. Extreme weather conditions and lack of easy access to markets is a hurdle in their way, during the productive season. So to attract the attention of communities in conservation, it is necessary to improve strengthen their income sources. The plan suggests the following measures to improve agriculture and livestock in the buffer zone areas of the park;
- Introduce high yielding varieties of crops such as potatoes, wheat and maize etc., to help people earn more money for their families from the marginal small land holdings.
- Help rehabilitation of degraded slopes to bring more waste land under the plough for agricultural and fodder productivity
- Introduce breed improvement programs to promote high milk cattle breed in the area
- Develop marketing of dairy, hair and wool products to generate avenues for additional income for farmers
- Training in sustainable agriculture techniques and practices (SALT)
- Develop access to local markets though building small link roads
- Improve the communication system such as telephone lines for better communication and improved marketing jointly with the relevant agencies and departments (SCO)
Trainings in food processing, handicrafts and its marketing:
- Support local communities, especially women, in processing of fruits and potato products for making chips, jam and jelly etc., (apricots, apple and sea buckthorn)
- Trainings for women in handicrafts making, weaving and making woolen/hair products
- Help women increase their savings through Aga Khan Rural and Support Programme and the Mountain to Market (MM & BB) designed saving and business schemes.
- Introduce small women led projects of food processing, dry fruits, handy crafts, arts and local food etc.
- Develop a sustainable marketing mechanism in collaboration with the enterprise development section of the AKRSP for timely and profitable sale of local products.
Jobs for local communities:
Since this component is highly related with the socio-economic development so the following agencies may jointly implement the actions based on their past experience of working in community development, as AKRSP, MM & BB, Local Government and Rural Development, GB tourism department, WWF-Pakistan and other projects, programs and organizations jointly with Directorate of DNP and community based organizations to create short and long term job opportunities for the local men and women.
Objective 8: Link Deosai with other natural habitats:
Deosai is a Protected Area of immense importance due to its ecological diversity and geographic location. Deosai national park is adjacent to Central Karakorum National Park, which is again partially contiguous to the Khunjerab National Park in Shimshal area. There is a constant
migration and movement of wildlife between these protected areas, and sometimes also beyond the national boundaries to the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir. For effective management and to maintain the ecological integrity of these protected areas, it is essential to connect them through wildlife connectivity corridors. By doing so, linkages may be developed between the concerned communities for effective landscape level conservation to establish an international protected area in the region. The plan suggests the following actions for this purpose:
GIS based mapping of potential Connectivity Corridors:
Develop GIS based maps to find out the possible connectivity options between the national parks in Gilgit-Baltistan and beyond; develop GIS based maps for the habitats of common wildlife: connecting glaciers and water bodies etc.
Policy dialogue among stakeholders:
Initiate a dialogue process between the directorates of these Parks under the supervision of Forest and Wildlife Department and Ministry of Environment to establish connectivity corridors. Develop an umbrella organization for Parks management and notify key wildlife corridors for connectivity and landscape level management of Protected Areas in the longer term. For this purpose, the Forest and Wildlife department can play an instrumental role with technical support from WWF-Pakistan and other related NGOs.
1. RESOURCE PLAN
Staff & Staffing Structure:
At present, the Park is being administered by an eighteen-grade official of the Gilgit- Baltistan Forest & Wildlife department, as DFO/WLMO, having an established directorate at Skardu. Wildlife Management Officer (WLMO) is officially responsible to look after all technical, administrative and financial affairs of the Park. Under him, is strength of 17 regular staff including 01 RFO, 12 Game Watchers and 04 Admin personnel. Thirty-three staffs have been working against the present development scheme namely; “Management of Deosai Wilderness Park NAs”, though majority of them are engaged on short-term contractual basis. The number and placement of regular staffs is as under:
Table 5: Existing Core, Supervisory and Protective field staff in DNP
|Wildlife Management Officer (PBS
|01||RFO Office/ Rest
|Office Superintendent (BPS 16)||01||Check Posts (1)||Sadpara|
|Accounts Assistant (BPS 11)||01||Check Posts (1)||Chillim|
|Game Watchers (BPS 5)||12||DNP||Bara Pani|
|Driver (BPS 4)||01||DoDNP||Skardu|
|Naib Qasid (BPS 1)||01||DoDNP||Skardu|
The available field staff strength is inadequate to provide sufficient vigilance and care to wildlife and other precious resources of the Park. Even, the Park has no regular Range Forest Officers (RFO) to supervise field protective staff. Similarly, twelve numbers of Game Watchers with no means of transportation can never be enough to effectively protect 3626 sq. km area. However, the present staff, even if vacant posts are filled and provided to the Park, may not be sufficient to achieve the objectives of conservation at the desired level until the positions are given specified assignments, relevant expertise, proper training and logistic support. Please see the Institutional Development Plan (2015) by HWF for details (ANNEX – 6)
Environmental awareness and Eco-tourism promotion are two processes suggested to be continued so, in order to implement the plan in its true spirit and manage park resources on sustainable basis, the plan suggests hiring the following additional technical, service and support staff for implementation of the Management Plan:
Table 6: Proposed strength of core, technical and field staffs for DNP
|Title of post||BS||Total
|Technical / Professional Staff|
|Conservator Parks & Wildlife||19||01||00||01|
|Range Forest Officer (RFO)||16||02||00||02|
|Support & Service Staff|
PROPOSED ORGANOGRAM FOR DEOSAI NATIONAL PARK
As obvious from the staffing structure on above page, a senior position of Wildlife Management Officer (BPS 18) is already available to DNP but the position of Director Park (BPS 19) is for the time being, occupied by Secretary Forest Gilgit-Baltistan.
At present, interestingly, there are three Park directors of grade BPS 19, one each for KNP, CKNP and DNP, supposed to look after 5000, 10000 and 3626 sq. km areas of the KNP, CKNP and DNP, respectively. But in real sense, the Director KNP has been providing vigilance and care to only 500 Km2 area of the park, mainly along KKH. Contrarily, the entire Gilgit-Baltistan, encompassing more than 72,000 Km2 area, having a network of 04 National Parks, 03 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 07 Game Reserves and 24 Community Controlled Hunting Areas (CCHA), is administered by the Divisional Forest Officer, (Wildlife) in BPS 18. Territorial DFOs (BPS 17 or 18) are responsible to protect wildlife in areas outside the Protected Areas under direct supervision of the Conservators of Forests & wildlife, Gilgit and Baltistan (BPS 19), which shows that the officers in senior positions remain usually under-occupied because of very small area under their control and work load, compared to officers in similar grades of other departments. Furthermore, the Wildlife Management Officers (DNP & KNP) and Deputy Director (CKNP) holding grade 18 positions, in the presence of Park Directors are extremely underutilized, even, seem surplus sometimes. Therefore, in order to utilize their time, energy, knowledge and experience efficiently and more productively, the plan proposes to re-designate the position of director KNP (BPS 19) as Conservator Parks & Wildlife Gilgit-Baltistan and placed in Gilgit as in- charge of all wildlife and parks affairs. DFO Wildlife, Wildlife Management Officers (KNP & DNP) and Deputy Director (CKNP) of grade BPS 18 officers should be re designated as Deputy Conservator Park or Park Warden and placed in their relevant districts as Park Managers to look after their respective parks. They will directly report to Conservator Parks and Wildlife GB.
In addition to the above already existing positions, the plan proposes a few new positions to implement the plan. A brief description of each post is given below:
Education Officer (BPS 17)
DNP was established in 1993, and till now it is present on the map, but so far it has not been successful in meeting its objectives of protecting its natural resources. One major reason for this is the lack of public education and general awareness. The need for such education becomes more important in situations like that of DNP where peripheral communities and visitors exploit park resources unwisely putting the park at risk. In order to spread the message of conservation to local communities, visitors and other stakeholders, and to seek their support and cooperation for park management, a full time Education Officer is suggested to be hired and placed within the park area.
Ecotourism Officer (BPS 17)
Deosai has tremendous tourism potential but ill managed tourism activities during the past couple of years have been a threat to Park resources. The Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism department (GBTD) cannot fulfill the requirements and demands of eco-tourism in Protected Areas, especially in DNP. Although it has established tourist information centre in Chillim to facilitate tourists but this plan suggests promoting sustainable tourism in the park area to generate revenue for the Park and its buffer zone communities, which is a specialized field requiring effective planning and management as per the needs of tourists as well as the tourist carrying capacity of the Park, and subsequent monitoring to avoid any harmful impacts to Park ecosystem. Therefore a full time ecotourism officer will be required to meet these needs.
Veterinary Officer (BPS 17)
Transmission of diseases from livestock to wild animals on shared habitats is a common problem in Protected Areas, as people graze their livestock in pastures and rangelands where ungulates live and feed. In DNP, local and nomadic herds quite often graze in the same areas, which increase the chance of disease transmission from livestock to ungulates. In order to reduce chance of such incidences, livestock from the peripheral valleys need to be vaccinated on regular basis, before they are taken into the Park vicinity, which obviously can be done by a permanent veterinary staff of the Park. Moreover, sometimes, wild animals get injured and need instant treatment and care. So, the plan suggests engaging a full time Veterinary Officer to meet such animal care and vaccination needs.
Range Forest Officer (BPS 16)
Unrestricted grazing of livestock both by locals as well as nomads is a major issue in DNP. However, as per the prescription of the management plan, the local community will be allowed to graze their livestock in the grazing zone of the Park, which again would not be easy to enforce in true spirit without assessing the productivity and carrying capacity of different pastures based on which a specific number and kind of livestock will be allowed. There are quite a few qualified range experts available in PFI, NARC, AARU and WWF who may provide useful guidance on several range related issues of the Park, but effective implementation and monitoring of the pastures and rangelands can be done only by permanent park official who are responsible for rangelands. So, the plan suggests that grazing pressure in the park be minimized allowing scientific grazing in grazing zones only and also by developing alternative grazing areas outside the Park boundaries, for which a permanent employee stationed full time within the park would be required.
TRAINING & CAPACITY BUILDING:
Training of park staff in various subjects is highly essential to undertake different park activities, especially those having strong potential impact either on park or on sustainable management of its resources. The plan recommends the training in the following disciplines:
- Professional trainings or degree courses for the park staffs from national and foreign universities in the following subjects:
- Wildlife ecology and management
- Range ecology and management
- Environmental education and awareness
- Eco tourism and hospitality management
- Wetland ecology and management
- Short term certificate courses for the field protective staff from national colleges and relevant institutes in the following areas:
- Forest guard
- Game watcher
- Short term courses and workshops on Wetlands Management, Range management, Eco tourism, Biodiversity monitoring and management, Wildlife survey and assessment,
Veterinary care and animal husbandry, Forest management, Habitat assessment and monitoring and Wildlife management etc.
- Study Tours and exposure visits for park staff. Sometimes it becomes really difficult for the senior officials of the park to undertake prolong studies that require protracted stay abroad. However, it will be quite useful for them to visit parks in Africa, Europe or North America to get an insight into the evolutionary stages through which such parks have already passed. Brief training on the management and coordination of various disciplines in such parks will further enrich their knowledge and broaden their views to understand the problems of their own park and handle them more effectively. Director Parks & Wildlife and Wildlife Management Officers may attend these tours.
For further details, please see the proposed Institutional Plan for DNP by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (Annex 7).
BUILDINGS & INFRASTRUCTURE:
As Deosai National Park is a remote wilderness, where the field protective staff are supposed to stay round the clock for effective watch & guard to wildlife resources of the park. Even their presence is required full time on critical locations of the park i.e., Murtaza Top, Dappa/Shilla Top and Deosai Top. At present, DNP staffs serving in these places to provide vigilance to wildlife have neither huts nor sheds to protect themselves from adverse weather conditions, particularly in the field. So, the plan proposes to establish appropriate check posts with adequate living facilities at the above-mentioned places. Similarly, park boundaries are ambiguous and are yet to be defined through GIS & RS on watershed basis, which have been resulting into severe encroachments and excessive exploitation of park resources equally by locals as well as outsiders/nomads. The plan strongly recommends demarcating park boundaries purely on watershed bases followed by placement of pillars on delineated points to demarcate the park area.
Moreover, the park, no doubt has tremendous tourism potential but its exploitation as a result of the implementation of the plan, may increase number of visitors into the park, and can be source of revenue for the park and its communities. In order to provide basic facilities for camping and recreation, proper camping sites are needed to be established, and to provide necessary information to visitors about the park and its resources through talks, slide and film shows and displays and organizing guided tours, a building furnished with essential teaching materials and equipment will be required.
Keeping in view such demands for residences, check posts and other essential buildings, the plan recommends the provision of the following infrastructure to DNP:
- Camping Sites at key tourist places viz., Deosai top, Bara Pani, Shatung nullah, Murtaza top and Dappa/Shilla top
- Boundary pillars around 300 in number should be erected at various points along the park boundary
- Three check posts at Dappa/Shilla top, Deosai top and Murtaza top to protect wildlife from illegal hunting, poaching and capturing etc
- Alpine Information and Research Centre at Bara Pani, Deosai National Park
- Office and residential accommodation for the Range Forest Officer at Skardu
For more details about Park management and Visitors’ related infrastructure, please see the proposed Infrastructure Development Plan (2015) developed by Himalayan Wildlife Foundation for Deosai National Park (Annex 9).
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT:
In order to ensure fast access, effective monitoring and proper care to wildlife resources by the park staff, the plan suggests providing at least the following materials and equipment to DNP:
- Communication system (01)
- Geographic Positioning System (05)
- Binocular (25)
- Camping equipment (Large size fiber glass igloos 05; Winterized tents 10; Sleeping bags 30; Mattress 30)
- Digital camera with accessories (02)
- Spotting scopes (01)
- Digital Compass (05)
- Implements (5 sets)
ESTIMATED COST (PKR):
Table 7: Estimated cost of implementation of the Management Plan for DNP
|B.||Buildings & infrastructure||4250000|
|D.||Training and Capacity building||11198168|
|F.||Office running cost||8194511|
PROPOSED IMPLEMENTATION SCHEDULE:
Table 8: Proposed timeframe for implementation of Management Plan
|Ref||Items||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5|
|2.||Buildings & infrastructure||4250000||2750000||750000||750000||0|
|3.||Purchase and place equipment||2852500||0||0||0||0|
|4.||Training and Capacity building||2180000||1942500||2354625||2141606||2579437|
|6.||Office running cost||1483000||1557150||1635008||1716758||1802596|
Please look into Annex 2 for detail cost estimates.
MONITORING AND EVALUATION FRAMEWORK:
As rightly proposed by the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (2015), a Pressure-State-Response framework will be used for monitoring on implementation of the management plan, to determine if the ecosystem governance objectives set forth by the Plan are being achieved. The PSR framework lays out the basic relationships amongst the pressures human society puts on the environment, the resulting state or condition of the environment, and the response of society to these conditions to ease or prevent negative impacts resulting from the pressures. Apart from SPR indicators, this framework also outlines the related institutional arrangements, procedures for reporting and review, and budgetary requirements, which should be considered as an evolving document. The proposed Park Management Committee (PMC) will be reviewing the framework for relevance and SMARTNESS of the indicators proposed, before initiating the activities, and periodically review and improve it as experience is gained in implementation of the Management Plan. The Park Authorities will be responsible for finalizing data collection forms and protocols, and developing information management systems to support the compilation of data and preparation of reports. An Independent Monitoring Agency (IMA) as is proposed to conduct periodic field surveys to independently verify the extent and effectiveness of implementation of the Management Plan. The reports prepared by IMA will be publically disclosed and reviewed by the Management Committee at least once a year, and by the Wildlife Management Board as and when scheduled.
For details, please see the HWF proposed Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for DNP (Annex 10).
ANNEXURE 1: DRAFT MANAGEMENT APPROACHES/DECISIONS FOR THE ENDORSEMENT OF THE WORKSHOP AND APPROVAL OF THE SECRETARY FORESTS AND WILDLIFE AS PART OF THE MANAGEMENT PLAN OF DNP
- Depute/ provide adequate staff in the managerial, social mobilization and protection categories; and needful resources to manage the park through desired participation of the stakeholders, and in accordance with the prescriptions of the plan and objectives of the DNP (Action: Lead role to be identified by Secretary Forest GB).
- With the help, and technical guidance of WWF-P. AKRSP, PMAC, BASDO and others, organize relevant communities of the park in Social Groups at various levels for them to participate effectively in the planning and management of DNP resources (Action: Coordinator to be identified by the Secretary Forest GB)
- With the help, support and guidance of relevant organizations such as WWF-P and others, develop and implement a comprehensive awareness program that would inculcate a sense of ownership amongst the stakeholders for the natural assets of Gilgit-Baltistan in general and Deosai National Park in particular (Action: Coordination role to be identified by the Secretary Forest GB).
- Involve relevant research institutions such as KIU, WWF-P and others in the monitoring of the habitat trends and ecological health of DNP for undertaking needful corrective measures (Action: Coordination role to be identified by the Secretary Forest GB).
- Create sustainable income opportunities with the help and support of relevant departments and organizations such as AKRSP, PMAC and WWF-P for the communities of the park for them to minimize their dependence on the park resources for livelihoods (Action: Coordination role to be identified by the Secretary Forest GB).
- The CS may notify a Park Protection Committee at GB level with Secretary Forests and Wildlife as Chair and members drawn from departments/ organizations who have a stake in the park, with a mandate to be safeguarding the Protected Areas of GB, including DNP against activities that can, or may affect the continued survival of the natural resources of the parks in the near or the far future (Action: To be pursued by the Secretary Forest GB)
- The Secretary Forests and Wildlife may notify a Park Support Committee, including WWF, PMACP, AKRSP, BASDO, KIU and others who may provide technical guidance on critical issues or may help in community awareness, mobilization and motivation; or providing research support to various managerial actions in the DNP (Action: Secretary Forest GB).
- As part of the implementation of the proposed Plan, a sum of Rs. 2.00 million may be allocated with immediate effect, in particular the cost of consulting services, social mobilization, alternative livelihoods, watch & guard system and seeking support for other actions prescribed by the Plan (Action: Secretary Forest GB).
- While according to the needs of local livestock owners, the use of the Deosai plains shall be restricted for the outside glaziers. However, in absolute unavoidable circumstances, the glaziers may be allowed, only if they pay tax, equivalent to the value of grass and other shrubs including medicinal plants, as compensation of the loss of natural habitats. The amount of this should be used for the motivation of partner communities (Action: Secretary Forest GB).
- The Park management shall identify the partner community who shall be part of the planning, protection and management of DNP. They shall do this through their social organizations and may be paid from the income, collected through entry fee, livestock grazing fee, tourism etc, in accordance with a formula, agreed upon by the partner communities from custodian villages of the Park (Action: Secretary Forest GB).
- The Park management shall identify sites that shall stay accessible to tourists and make arrangements through partner community not to allow tourists go beyond the specified sites (Action: Director Park).
- A livestock insurance scheme shall be introduced for the partner communities, where they should pay for the registration fee (once for all) and amount fee per head of animal (premium). GB government and NGOs shall contribute to the core funding of the scheme (Action: Secretary Forest GB).
- Compensation of livestock deaths because of predators shall be one- third of local market rate in the first year, one to two in the second year and full in the last year (Action: Director Park)