Wildfires Pose Alarming Threat to Biodiversity in Pakistan's Forests

A fallen tree on fire in a forest.
Tribal News Network
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Nairobi, Kenya

Wildfires Pose Alarming Threat to Biodiversity in Pakistan's Forests

It was a cruel irony for Pakistan in June when a record-breaking spate of wildfires wreaked havoc in the nation’s forests as negotiators from around the world gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to try to slow the loss of biodiversity across the planet. The negotiators representing almost two hundred nations talked while the fires raged across some of the country’s most delicate forest ecosystems.

About 20 incidents of wildfires broke out in one month in the Mohmand Tribal District, high in the Khyber mountain range bordering Afghanistan, while more than 400 have broken out since the beginning of the year in other tribal districts across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At least seven people, including firefighters and security personnel, have been killed thus far, and hundreds of thousands of acres of forests left smoldering.

Scientists say that innumerable valuable trees and herbs were destroyed, and the biodiversity of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seriously degraded. They also point to similarly destructive wildfires that occurred during that same time frame in the United States, Australia and other countries around the world. 

In Nairobi, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention and host of the June conference, commented  that wildfires had caused irreparable damage to biodiversity in Pakistan and elsewhere around the world, and that talks were under way with member states and parties to prevent similar incidents in the future. How that will happen, particularly as climate change raises the temperature and accelerates wildfire risks, was unclear. By the end of the talks, the negotiators had opted to defer a final agreement to the 15th conference of the parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal this December. 

That meeting, scheduled for December 5-17, is expected to lead to a global agreement by all 196 parties to the CBD. The conference was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, but was postponed due to the global epidemic of COVID-19, and was later split into two, including the session to come in December and the one just recently passed in Nairobi.

The Nairobi negotiators laid the groundwork for establishing guidelines governing the use and exploitation of biological resources, the sharing of the benefits from them, and advancing initiatives to conserve and protect  biodiverse ecosystems like the forests of Pakistan. It is hoped that details will be worked out in Montreal.

"I can proudly confirm that Canada will welcome the world to Montreal for COP15 in December 2022, to prevent the dangerous loss of biodiversity around the world," said Steven Gilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “At a time when up to one million species worldwide are in danger of extinction, the world can no longer afford to wait for global action on nature conservation. Canada will continue to advocate for international cooperation on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. ”

Towards a 2050 vision of "living in harmony with nature"

These include protection goals, sustainable use and benefit sharing, biodiversity loss subsidies and financing drivers, strengthening the role of local people, communities, youth and women and other stakeholders, implementing national biodiversity strategies and action plans and setting a time frame for regular review of progress by 2030. 

Co-chairs of the talks, Francis Ogwal of Uganda and Basil Van Havre of Canada, expressed confidence that "the delegations will come up with a mandate for compromise and consensus that will enable them to work constructively through differences."


This story was produced as part of a reporting fellowship to the 2022 UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 4th Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, led by Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published by Tribal News Network on 25 June, 2022. It has been translated to English and lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: A forest wildfire / Credit: Jeremy Bezanger via Unsplash.

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