Pakistan’s Ziarat Juniper Forest declared by UNESCO as the World Network of Biosphere Reserves

Ziarat, Pakistan: International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) has finally declared Ziarat, Balochistan’s Juniper Forest as the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Dispatch News Desk reported.

The announcement was made at MAB in Paris the other day. IUCN said that it will help nature conservationists to highlight the importance of these peerless forests at international level. Country Representative IUCN Pakistan Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that inclusion of Juniper Forest of Ziarat in the World Network of Biosphere Reserve is yet another step towards recognition of Pakistan’s natural sites of international significance on global level. “It is a matter of great honour and pride for Pakistan”, he said.

Juniper Forest of Ziarat, Balochistan, which has trees as old as 5000 years according to nature conservationists, is the second oldest in the world after the Junipers of California. These wonderful forests of Balochistan are on the verge of a catastrophic extinction for different reasons. These forests are infected by parasite and massive level cutting of these trees by timber mafia. According to experts, these forests are irreplaceable. Foresters say that Juniper tree grows only one inch in a year, and in thousands years they become fully grown trees. Due to its slowest growing, Juniper is also known as “living fossils”.

Juniper Forest in Ziarat is the largest contiguous natural Juniper forest in Pakistan, spanning over 247,000 acres. This is only the second Biosphere Reserve in Pakistan with the first one being the Lal Sohanara National Park in Bhawalpur District. Lal Sohanara is one of the largest National Parks in South East Asia, spread over 153,000 acres, it is notable for the diversity of its landscape with desert area, forests and water.

The process for designating the Ziarat Juniper Forest as a Biosphere Reserve was initiated by IUCN Pakistan under its UNDP funded project titled ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Juniper Forest Ecosystem Production’ in collaboration with Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department and UNESCO Pakistan’s financial support under One UN Programme. To meet the criteria, a management plan was formulated and approved by the Government of Balochistan. Consultations were also held with all the stakeholders, local communities and other relevant government departments for which the Additional Chief Secretary (Dev), the Secretary Forests and the Conservator Wildlife, Government of Balochistan played an active role.