Rangelands and Livestock
Background Paper

by Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Khan

The Northern Areas have a unique and critical role to play in the sustainable development of Pakistan. Although they span a relatively small geographical area, the Northern Areas serve as a vital catchment for the Indus River, upon which a majority of Pakistan's irrigated agriculture and hydroelectricity depends. The Northern Areas also contain the nation's most important natural forests, extensive mineral reserves, and a wealth of biodiversity. Dramatic scenery, some of the world's highest mountains, and a rich cultural and archaeological heritage make the Northern Areas one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country.

Over the last several decades, however, many of the Northern Areas' natural resources have come under increasing pressure, as a result of a growing human population and the opening of the Karakoram Highway. At the same time, it has become increasingly recognised that the isolated nature of many of the region’s communities, coupled with the Northern A reas' high-altitude and fragile environment, poses special constraints and challenges to development. Perhaps more so than in any other part of Pakistan, there is a need in the Northern Areas to ensure that social and environmental considerations are fully integrated into the development process.

In response to these concerns, the Northern Areas Administration began the preparation of a Northern Areas Strategy for Sustainable Development in 1999, with the financial assistance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation; technical support has been provided by IUCN–The World Conservation Union. The Strategy addresses a broad range of social, economic and environmental issues, and seeks to provide a comprehensive policy framework for the sustainable development of the region. It responds directly to the provisions and recommendations of the National Conservation Strategy, adopted by the Government of Pakistan in 1992.

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