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World Habitat took part in an international virtual seminar on Ecosystem Restoration for Quality of Life – as part of a series of official events celebrating World Environment Day.

The seminar was organised by the World Habitat Award-winning Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, alongside the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan, and the United Nations Habitat Programme. Pakistan’s global leadership in advancing ecosystem conservation and protection was one of the reasons why it was selected to host this event, exploring the World Environment Day theme of restoring the earth’s damaged ecosystems and to go from exploiting nature to healing it.

It also saw the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minster on Climate Change, Pakistan, Malik Amin Aslam, said:

“Although our contribution to global GHG emissions is less than 1%, Pakistan’s people, biodiversity and economy are severely impacted by climate change, with more frequent disasters. We are working to counteract these trends through ambitious initiatives such as the honorable Prime Minister’s Clean Green Pakistan Programme and the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme to restore the ecosystem and electric vehicle policy. The government is also working on developing the first-ever green building codes for the country. I am glad to see development institutions like the Aga Khan Development Network and UN-Habitat contributing to these efforts for a greener Pakistan”.

During the seminar, speakers shared their experiences in ecosystem restoration and improving quality of life for communities living in mountainous areas to coastal belts and urban centres of Pakistan, and globally.

Rafael Tuts, Director Programme Division, UN-Habitat, said:

“We have been exploiting and destroying our planet’s ecosystems, and the pandemic has also shown how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. We urgently need to reverse our unsustainable lifestyles and how we design, plan and manage cities.

“UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change carried out a study on ‘Policy Guidelines for Development of Green Building Code’, based on which ‘Green Building Guidelines were developed for the Prime Minister 5 Million Naya Pakistan Housing Programme’. The adoption of Green building guidelines will ensure GHG emission reduction, resource efficiency in consumption of building materials, water and energy use and will result in greening the building construction in Pakistan”.

Mountain ecosystems are particularly rich in terms of biodiversity, culture, and critical natural resources such as water.

Onno Ruhl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), explained:

“Mountains and mountain-communities are on the frontlines of climate change, facing the threat of melting glaciers, unpredictable weather, and flash floods. AKAH is working to restore these fragile ecosystems and build resilient habitats for these communities to thrive. We combine data, community engagement, and world-class planning to help communities understand and adapt to the risks they face to plan for a better future. To prevent further degradation and rebuild natural capital AKAH promotes nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction and sustainable infrastructure and service delivery.”

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said:

“What makes AKAH’s work exceptional is that it’s not just responding to the effects of the climate emergency but is being proactive in protecting people from its effects – through using technology and the knowledge of the communities themselves. It provides communities with the knowledge of where and how to live in safety in a changing world. This has to be the best way for communities vulnerable to disasters and the effects of climate change to protect themselves. The potential for this approach to be adapted and used in similar areas in Pakistan and elsewhere is absolutely huge.”

Environmental stewardship has long been a core strategic priority for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) cutting across the work of all its agencies across Asia and Africa.

Hafiz Sherali, President, Aga Khan Council for Pakistan, explained that:

“In many of the areas where AKDN works, climate change compounds the risk of natural disasters resulting in the loss of lives and livelihoods. The AKDN is committed to protecting and restoring ecosystems while improving the quality of lives of the millions of people we serve. We take a holistic approach to mitigate disaster risk and proactively protect the environment.”

Nawab Ali Khan, CEO, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat Pakistan added:

“AKAH is honored to celebrate World Environment Day with the government of Pakistan, vulnerable communities and our national and international partners. Decades of experience has guided us that only by working together can we hope to overcome the environmental challenges we face in Pakistan and globally.

“We are proud to partner with the government on its ambitious efforts to plant 50 million trees in Gilgit-Baltistan, build sustainable water and sanitation systems and develop nation-wide green building guidelines.”

By sharing practical examples, celebrating successes, and calling attention to the challenges, the seminar aimed to initiate a dialogue to put the world on track for a sustainable future.

The seminar was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change, the United Nations, INGOs, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies and partners, donor agencies, academia, media and community organizations and was held on 8 June 2021.

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