LAHORE:The World Sustainability Organisation (WSO) has expressed its willingness to collaborate with Pakistan govt to turn the country into the sustainability hub for Asia through sustainable practices critical to environment.
The World Sustainability Organisation and Foundation, which certifies sustainable products and services and supports conservation projects around the world, launched two conservation projects – Friend of the Earth and Friend of the Sea – in order to save butterflies from loss of habitat and whales from ship collisions respectively through enforcement of sustainable practices among local companies.
“None of the companies in Pakistan has yet achieved certification for their products,” said Mr. Paolo Bray, founder and director of WSO, in an exclusive interview with ‘The News’ via Zoom from WSO headquarter in Milan here on Friday.
“We really hope this will happen in the near future, he said, while mentioning that some of the companies, located in the countries surrounding the Arabian Sea and in Asia in general, are among over 1,500 companies in more than 80 countries in all continents, which have Friend of the Sea or Friend of the Earth certified products.
Having critical importance for the well-being of marine environment, he informed, the whales play a significant role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere; each great whale sequesters an estimated 33 tons of CO2 on average, thus playing their part in the fight against climate change. In comparison, a tree sequesters merely 48 pounds. Also, the waste products of whales provide key ingredients that stimulate the growth of Plankton, which is sequestering 40% of carbon produced globally. By valuing a whale by the amount of Carbon sequestering potential in their lifetime, a single whale has been valued at $2million, with the entire population globally valued at $1trillion.
Despite a global moratorium, Mr. Paolo Bray said, still over 1,000 whales a year are killed by whaling activity. This number, however, dwarfs when compared to the estimated 20,000 whales being killed by whale ship strikes globally. This level of mortality can lead some whale species to extinction.
While Right Whale, whose population consists of a few hundred only, followed by Blue Whales and Sperm Whales are most endangered species in various seas, the WSO chief says, the Arabian Sea by the coast of Pakistan has been identified among high-risk areas, where Humpback Whale is in danger due to frequent ship strikes.
As the shipping industry almost doubles every 10 years, and modern ships increased their speed, it is increasingly having a deadly impact on whales.
The WSO director said that Pakistan needs to motivate shipping operators, both at Karachi port in Sindh and newly-operated Gwadar port in Balochistan, to implement measures to reduce the risk of whale-ship strikes by slowing down to 10 knots per hour or less in the areas with higher presence of whales; implementing measures to detect presence of whales in front of the vessel (e.g. thermal cameras); introducing procedures to react to presence of whales; contributing to online data sharing platforms to inform other vessels about whales’ presence.
Besides, he said, the shipping operators certified by Friend of the Sea as Whale-Safe or applying to the safety protocols could be allowed to use port facilities at better prices, which will in turn help consumers recognize their efforts to protect whales and make a responsible choice.
He said that the shipping operators, navigating the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, have undergone Friend of the Sea sustainable shipping certification audits and are thus implementing measures to reduce ship-to-whales strikes. As per WSO recommendations, Sri Lanka govt moved shipping lanes 15 miles south and some operators have also accepted, which reduced mortality of hundreds of blue whales every year. “Similarly, we urge Pakistan govt to be more active as WSO extends support towards more sustainable practices,” the WSO head says.
As for the Friend of the Earth program, Mr. Paolo Bray said that the butterflies are part of the pollinating insects, so they promote the dissemination of plants; protect plants from certain pests; represent food for other animals, such as birds, reptiles; and an important indicator of ecosystem health. They are also an important mental medicine because admiring them and their presence gives a feeling of pleasure and relaxation.
Among almost 230,000 of such delicate species, he said, there are 19,000 types of butterflies (only 12 percent) and the rest are moths to form an incredible biodiversity. The studies indicate a decline of about 50% in populations with some species.
In Pakistan, there are 436 species of butterflies and probably more than 260 species of moths. Parnassius actius is a rare and declining butterfly species in Pakistan listed as vulnerable on the red list of endangered species by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In general, Paolo Bray said, the number of butterflies and fireflies in the country is dwindling due to rising environmental pollution, traffic, pesticides, artificial lights and the growing trend of ornamental plants.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, the WSO chief said, the moist Himalayan temperate forests of Murree Hills and adjoining areas are home to many exotic species of butterflies. In the last two decades, 14 species of butterflies have disappeared from the area due to increase in temperature and extreme weather events. “A recent study shows that the remaining species are threatened due to introduction of invasive species new to this area and increased predator population,” he added.
The World Sustainability Organisation has launched, as part of the Friend of the Earth project, a Global Butterfly Census, which requires citizens to send a picture of a butterfly with its location details via WhatsApp (+39 351 2522520) or email (email@example.com) to know the name of the species and some curiosities. The information will be stored on an interactive map linked to our database, and Friend of the Earth will reward and recognize “Butterflies Conservation Hero” with most images. As WSO received more than 1500 photos from over 33 countries around the world, he said, it is still waiting to receive photos from Pakistan to better protect the butterflies in the country.
He informed that Friend of the Earth also supports conservation projects in several countries around the world to protect natural habitats, prevent the impact of road traffic on butterflies and reproduce ex situ species of endangered butterflies and moths, which are then reintroduced into protected areas.
He informed that The Friend of the Earth is helping govts and companies worldwide to promote sustainable agriculture through its sustainability certification program, besides motivating them to undertake long-term programs to prevent habitat loss and pollution for butterflies’ conservation. Some Indian food and nutraceutical companies have joined the Friend of the Earth certification program and started to produce in a way that also respects butterflies populations. “We hope that Pakistani companies will also join, perhaps with the direct involvement of the Pakistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, to turn Pakistan into the sustainability hub for Asia,” says the WSO head.
The WSO chief observed that sustainability is to use existing resources in a way to maintain them at the same level for future generations, and certification obligates companies to reduce impact on environment. “If countries do not comply with the sustainability practices, sooner or later they will suffer from consequences. I wish Pakistan to endorse sustainability concept, which will ensure entrance and give credibility to its products in international markets, besides leaving sustainable environment for the tourism,” he added.
Saying that there is a general lack of enforcement of safety protocols among all countries including Pakistan, he said, WSO strongly suggests to Pakistan govt to tighten the enforcement of requirements and also sign the remaining conventions for sustainability.
As WSO has expert collaborators in IT sector from Pakistan, WSO chief said, we also support Snow Leopard Trust in Pakistan to protect the species, which shows our willingness to collaborate with local organisations/projects. “The WSO also likes to collaborate with the Pakistan govt through its Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries in order to contribute to change towards more sustainable practices in Pakistan,” the WSO director concludes.
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