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Dawn, The Newspaper’s Staff reported today on how ‘Community empowerment vital for sustainable development’. This story is reproduced here for its vital importance for a well balanced and above all serene future.

ISLAMABAD: Leaders and political workers must break through political, ethnic and regional divisions and unite to raise their voices against exploitation of natural resources in mountainous areas of the country along with social and livelihood challenges faced by people.

This was expressed by participants of a webinar who also urged the federal and provincial governments to use collective wisdom and develop a mechanism for social development.

The webinar, ‘Working Together to Empower Mountain Communities’ was organised by Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan).

Being far away from the centres of decision-making, mountain communities, in totality, suffer from inadequate decision-making, they pointed out, adding that voices and concerns of people from the community along with other stakeholders must be taken into account while the government prepared plans for conservation and development.

Ill-planned infrastructure development and environmentally-unfriendly interventions in the name of tourism promotion and livelihood are proving to be natural hazards.

Climatic conditions are worsening and communities are on the verge of socio-economic collapse.

Conservation adviser from Ev-K2-CNR, an Italian research organisation, Ashiq Ahmad Khan highlighted that unfortunately there was no culture of working together, even though it was necessary for sustainable development.

“Sometimes people have lesser abilities but they do not invite better skilled persons to work on community-based initiatives. They feel reluctant in empowering communities as perhaps they believe that after empowering communities, they would become irrelevant,” he said, adding that the federal and provincial government should develop an inclusive platform with support from the private sector to continue development initiatives.

Well-known mountaineer Nazir Sabir said mountainous areas lack basic amenities and social infrastructure which is the prerequisite for empowerment of communities.

“We need to provide them facilities at their doorsteps. Women in the region are disadvantaged in many ways. They lack health, education and equal rights.

“In addition to the challenges of living in the mountains like harsh climate and inadequate infrastructure, they experience unequal treatment based on traditional gender relationships that deprives them from equal access to health, education, property and well-being. Focusing on women empowerment will ultimately improve social and living conditions in the mountainous parts of the country,” he said.

Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed said: “We need to look into the factors that explain why several non-governmental organisations and donor-driven government projects could not generate desired results of community empowerment.

“The vulnerability of communities is increasing due to climate impact, indiscriminate deforestation, over exploitation of natural resources and shrinking livelihood options. Life is also under stress because of rapid social changes, local political conflicts and natural disasters.”

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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