LAHORE - Like other parts of the globe, World Environment Day was observed across the country including Lahore yesterday for raising public awareness about benefits of clean environment.

WED theme this year was "Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade".

Different governmental and non-governmental organisations arranged events to highlight the importance of the day.

WWF-Pakistan celebrated the day with an aim to encourage people to reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products and celebrate all species under threat.

WWF-Pakistan held a number of activities within the country in a bid to raise awareness within the public on illegal trade of wildlife.

In Lahore, WWF-Pakistan presented a paper titled The Impacts of Over-exploitation of Resources on Domestic Consumers at Pakistan Engineering Congress (PEC). The paper reviewed water as a resource impacting the social, environmental and economic conditions of peri-urban areas of Lahore and was viewed in the context of the tragedy of commons.

The paper stressed the need of taking concrete measures to develop a strategy both on a local and national level to conserve the already depleting levels of water.

Similarly, WWF-Pakistan will participate in an event organised by the Environmental Protection Agency on 6 June at the Punjab Auditorium and will screen a documentary on the plight of the endangered pangolin.

In Sukkur, the organization conducted an awareness workshop for animal and bird dealers, and Wildlife Department field staff at Indus Dolphin Conservation Centre. On the occasion, Taj Muhammad Shaikh, Deputy Conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) gave an overview of wildlife in the province, the threats it faces and efforts of the SWD to control illegal wildlife trade. Representatives of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Sindh Forest Department and Sindh Fisheries Department also participated in the workshop and pledged to play a central role in changing attitudes of people involved in illegal wildlife trade and practices. At the end of the event a documentary on the endangered Indus river dolphin was screened in order to sensitise the participants on illegal fishing and its impact on the riverine biodiversity of the region. 

Similarly, at Taunsa Barrage WWF-Pakistan along with a community based organisations (CBOs) conducted an awareness walk from WWF-Pakistan’s Taunsa Information Centre to River Inn hotel with a message to put an end to illegal poaching. At the end of the walk participants released confiscated freshwater turtles into the Indus river. Earlier in the day, a group of artists from the local communities staged a performance at Taunsa Information Centre depicting the atrocities being committed against wild animals. The performance kindled empathy amongst the participants towards the plight of wild animals in the face of illegal poaching.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA G-B) and Naunihal Development Organization (NDO) organised an art and declamation contest for students at Boys Degree College, Harespo, Nagar district. Students from various schools and colleges of the district actively participated in the event and highlighted the importance of local wildlife in their speeches and through their artwork. In Skardu, WWF-Pakistan representatives participated in a seminar organised by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on ‘Zero Tolerance for Illegal Wildlife Trade’.

Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, in his message on WED 2016 stressed the urgency and need to put an end to illegal trade of wildlife. “Action against illegal wildlife trade has become a high global priority with the United Nations General Assembly adopting a resolution last year urging all countries to make this a serious criminal offence. The flourishing illegal trade, if not curtailed, will rob the world of its natural treasures by pushing species towards extinction. We are at a crossroad where we must choose between mere lip service and plain old hard work towards eradicating this severe problem.” He further appealed to everyone be it the government, civil society, businesses or individuals to press everyone to do whatever they can to stop the illegal trade of wildlife.