A one-day field tour of BS-IV students was organized by the Department of Forestry, Range and Wildlife Management, Karakoram International University to Diamer and Babusar Valley on July 10, 2021. Dr. Muhammad Zafar Khan, Chairman of the Department of Forestry, Range and Wildlife Management, led the visit, accompanied by two faculty members, Dr. Ahmad Hussain and Ms. Ishrat Roomi.
The students were addressed at Bonerdas, District Diamer, before heading to Babusar Valley. The Chairman of the Department went over the numerous climatic elements that affect the area’s vegetation. He emphasized the need for all students to know and identify the flora and fauna of the area. Dr. Ahmad Hussain probed students on the quality and potential of the Indus River’s water, as well as the causes of sedimentation in the River and how to prevent it? During the field tour, he counseled the visiting group to maintain unity and discipline. Ms. Ishrat Roomi discussed local people’s grazing practices as well as livestock and herds’ use of pastures and biomass. She underlined the need for students to strengthen their observation skills and taking a keen interest in natural resource management.
Forest Officers greeted the study group at the Forest Huts near APA House in Babusar. Dr. Muhammad Zafar introduced them to the students and faculty. Ashfaq Ahmad, Assistant Conservator of Forests welcomed the visiting group and introduced them to Mr. Mujeeb Sardar, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Diamer. The DFO informed the students about the forest types in the area, silviculture, range management methods, and other activities that are now being carried out, as well as the planS of action.
While addressing the students, Mr. Mujeed Sardar, explained that most of the forests in Gilgit-Baltistan are located in the dry temperate zone. Forests in Babusar valley (elevation >10,000 ft) fall in the transition zone between the dry and moist temperate forests. Moist temperate forests are most diverse and the key indicator species of the forests are Pinus wallichiana (blue pine), Picea smithiana (spruce), Abies pindrow (fir). At higher elevations, Juniperus excelsa (Juniper) species are also found. The rest of the forests in Diamer and Gilgit lie in the dry temperate zone. Key indicator species in dry temperate forests are Cedrus deodara (deodara), in association with Pinus wallichiana (blue pine), Quercus ilex (oak/banni).
Moving higher, the zone is classified as Sub-alpine, with Juniperus excelsa (Juniper) as the key indicator species, which has, generally a stunted growth. Above the tree line, alpine meadows begin, and no trees are discovered or documented.
Mr. Mujeeb added that “We have limited options for managing natural resources since we are exposed to climatic extremes and confront many obstacles. We are obligated to manage these forests using a selection system since forests in Gilgit-Baltistan serve as a catchment area and regulate water flows for three dams, one of which is already operational and the other two in the planning stages. The longevity of these dams is highly dependent on forest management in Gilgit-Baltistan. The selection system implies exploitable diameter (36″, 32″, 28″ is fixed depending on the condition of a forest) of forest trees/crops. Only dead, dried, diseased and wind fallen trees are included for final harvesting, called drainage. There’s not a single green tree on the list. As Fir and Spruce have low commercial value, these are still intact in the forest. Both of these trees have a good seed year once after 4-5 years”.
The DFO, while discussing range management stated that the nomadic system is prevalent in Gilgit-Baltistan. With the intervention of the GB Forest Department a customized rotational nomadic grazing system has been established and is being experimented with the participation of local communities all around the region.
In the future watershed management practices will be carried out in collaboration with WAPDA for catchment protection and regulation of freshwater flows.
The DFO stated that Markhor, black bear, and Ladakh urial have been observed and documented in the Diamer district among the mammals in wildlife. Pheasants have a sizable population across the region.
Finally, under the supervision of the Forest Officers, an exercise on identifying local flora and fauna was conducted. A student representative offered a vote of gratitude to the Forest Officers’ briefing party. The presence and briefing by Forest Officers were also appreciated by the KIU faculty, who praised them for their assistance during the field visit.
Lastly Dr. Zafar Khan and the accompanying faculty thanked GB Forest Department, especially the Conservator and other Officers who organized a briefing for the students and facilitated the field tour.
For further information: Dr. Ahmad Hussain, Assistant Professor, the Department of Forestry, Range and Wildlife Management, KIU. Email. Ahmad.firstname.lastname@example.org
Some photographs related to the field tour are given herewith.