KARACHI                    -               The former vice chancellor (VC) of University of Karachi (KU) Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser said on Monday that the project, ‘Flora of Pakistan’ had been completed.

He said it was a matter of great pride not only for the university but for the whole country.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the four-day International Symposium on Plant life of South Asia, held here at the Jinnah Auditorium of University of Karachi, he said it was without any doubt a landmark achievement since indeed it was an uphill task to accomplish.

Talking about the project, Qaiser said that it was a book dealing with the plants of a defined geographical area.

“The principal objective of Flora is to provide means of identification of the plants growing in the area. Almighty Allah has given unlimited biological wealth to Pakistan. We have a very rich Flora, and to utilize this wealth properly and scientifically, the plants should be correctly identified,” KU former VC explained.

 The Center of Plant Conservation and the Department of Botany KU had jointly organised the event, while local and international scholars from eight countries are participating in the symposium.

Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser said that if the plants were not correctly identified, their utility was limited. “Flora provides baseline information. This information can be utilized for scientific study, in industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture environment management, forestry, and others,” he elaborated.

He informed the audience that the project of Flora of Pakistan was jointly started under PL-480 programme, USDA in 1967 at the Department of Botany, University of Karachi and Gordon College Rawalpindi. “Both these institutions were awarded the project of writing on ‘Flora of Pakistan’ because at that time both the centers had the best taxonomists in the country,” KU former VC informed.

He further said that Professor Syed Iratafaq Ali from Karachi and Professor Nasir from Rawalpindi started work on plants in the country.

Moreover, he said that Gordon College had a very rich heritage of Dr Stewart in the form of 55, 000 plant specimens which he collected for over 50 years from all over Pakistan (then India).

Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser further said that the first fascicle of the Flora of Pakistan came in 1970. “The completion of the project is the result of a team effort.

A large number of authors and illustrators have contributed to the completion of this phase of Flora dealing with the flower plants. On behalf of the editors, I would like to express my deep gratitude for their cooperation. The writing of Flora from a Pakistan-based team was an uphill task,” he said, and added that in terms of issues related to conservation and environmental threats Pakistan is facing many challenges.

“It has a population of over 200 million, the fifth-largest in the world. One of the most important issues is that of water pollution, shortage of clean drinking water, while deforestation, soil erosion, desertification and climate change are the others, resulting in variation in rainfall, increase in temperatures and melting of glaciers,” he elaborated.

He advised that in order to address these problems, Pakistan needed sufficient information about its natural resources.

“Flora is based on all available plant collections and at least gives an idea of the previous vegetation and climate and also gives information on the most current taxonomy of these plants. This is the first step to understand and conserve our fast-depleting biodiversity of the area,” he added.

He observed that plants are the main compound of the terrestrial ecosystem and provide the habitat for animals, fungi, and others. “I am proud to announce the Flora is available online. No other floras in the South Asian region, accept China, is available online.”