Assessing Pakistan’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Joyce Masuya, Acting Executive Director (UNEP), observes that “Nature makes human development possible but our relentless demand for the earth’s resources is accelerating extinction rates and devastating the world’s ecosystems”.[1]  The existence of biodiversity is of fundamental value to humankind, be it economic, cultural, recreational, or even in terms of ecological life support.[2] It provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, and many other ecosystem services. In short, the way different ecosystems and their inhabitants interact is fundamental to the existence of life. Until 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration, but the rapid development of industries and human activity has resulted in an overuse of the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.[3] 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, over 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost, and an average 68% decrease has been shown in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016.[4]

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) are intended to assist States in addressing existing threats to biodiversity, creating an effective framework to mitigate harm, and ensuring its conservation and sustainable usage within its socioeconomic limits.[5] Pakistan’s current NBSAP 2017-2030 has been designed to implement international biodiversity standards, i.e. the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (ABT) and the Sustainable Development Goals. This article will assess the NBSAP’s efficacy in upholding these international standards and judge whether it can create a practical framework for the conservation and sustainable usage of biodiversity in Pakistan.[6]

What Are NBSAPs

NBSAPs identify legal, institutional, capacity, knowledge, and technical gaps in implementing the ABTs and provide recommendations for overcoming these gaps. They create a framework of operation for States to conserve and sustainably utilise biodiversity.

International Mechanisms Mandating Protection of Biodiversity
The prime authority on the protection and conservation of biodiversity is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1993.[7] NBSAPs are mandated by Article 6 of the Convention, which requires contracting parties to develop national strategies or adapt their existing strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to reflect the goals of the Convention. All signatory bodies must implement such measures in line with their socio-economic boundaries. The governing body of the CBD is the Conference of the Parties (COP)s, which meets two every two years to discuss progress made by States since the Convention was ratified and creates plans for the future.[8] The CBD resulted in what is known as “first-generation” NBSAPs.

The concept of NBSAPs was further developed at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2010, resulting in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.[9] This plan unveiled the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (ABTs), a list of 20 targets that serve to make issues of biodiversity mainstream in both economic markets and society at large and increase biodiversity protection.[10] According to Target 17, each CBD Party must develop, adopt and implement an “effective, participatory and updated NBSAP” by 2015. These “second-generation” NBSAPs are guided by the general criteria set in place by ABTs’ 5 strategic goals.[11] Each goal contains a sub-list of targets to implement to achieve the goal.

Pakistan’s NBSAP

Pakistan was among 150 countries that signed the CBD in 1992 and subsequently ratified it in 1994. Like the other State parties, Pakistan committed to significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss at global, regional, and national levels by 2010. As a result, Pakistan’s first NBSAP was created. However, it contained the same issues as most first-generation NBSAPs. First-generation NBSAPs largely failed to consider marginalised communities, including women, indigenous peoples and local communities.[12] Today, an NBAP is said to be effective if it encompasses the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.[13]

Pakistan’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2030 was created after extensive stakeholder consultations and the identification of key development priorities. These included peace and security, governance, inclusive economic growth, the rule of law, social development, gender equality and women’s empowerment, sustainable low-cost energy, disaster response and preparedness, and the insight of more developed countries.[14] This essay will now assess Pakistan’s NBSAP in light of the ABTs 5 strategic goals.

Strategic Goal A
“Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.”[15]

Biodiversity mainstreaming means ensuring that biodiversity, and the services it provides, are appropriately factored into policies and practices that rely and have an impact on it. Strategic Goal A lays out targets to be included in the NSBAPs which must be achieved by 2020. The first strategic goal encompasses the need to integrate sustainability and biodiversity into the general populous through knowledge-based programs (ABT1) and incentives. Such activities include developing poverty alleviation strategies (ABT2), promoting sustainable consumption (ABT4), and replacing harmful subsidies with positive ones (ABT3).[16]

Pakistan’s NBSAP effectively embodies Strategic Goal A. Emphasis on biodiversity mainstreaming and poverty alleviation has been given throughout the Plan.[17] In particular, chapters 5, 6, and 7 reference biodiversity awareness, gender and poverty, and biodiversity mainstreaming in national planning. Each chapter provides context and an overview of existing issues and suggests strategies and actions to assist policymakers in developing sustainable solutions.[18]


Ch.5 : Biodiversity Awareness

Context : “ Loss of habitat and biodiversity is largely due to the lack of awareness among the users regarding the significance and need for its conservation and sustainable use” …[20]

Issues : “Reports, memoranda, and other publications are effective tools for communication … It is necessary to ask: Do decision makers have time for this cause? Do they feel the need and desire to be educated? Do they see the relevance of such workshops? Will such workshops even be productive?”[21]

Strategies and Actions:

  1. Mobilize mass media, especially print, audio-visual, and digital social media to create public awareness of the values of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss.
  2. Awareness days will be organized to commemorate the major environmental themes of national and international importance: biodiversity, desertification and drought, forests, tourism, wetlands and wildlife, etc. (ABT 1)
  3. A focus group of ‘opinion leaders’ representing print, audio-visual, and social media will be constituted soon after the adoption of the plan to mobilize the media for raising awareness. (ABT 1)

Ch. 6: Gender, Poverty, and Biodiversity Nexus

Context: “Majority of the population lives in rural areas especially the poor and marginalized communities, many of them rely on goods and services derived from biodiversity and ecosystems for their subsistence. Their livelihood is therefore strongly linked to biodiversity and ecosystem services. The loss of biodiversity enhances poverty and vulnerability to climate change and other catastrophes.”[22]

Issues: “Common resources are depleted over time due to over exploitation of resulting in deteriorating ecosystems, livelihood burdens, increased poverty and decreased health and women and children are more affected by their specific role.”[23]

Strategies and Actions:

  1. Elements of cooperative management regimes for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources by local and marginalized communities especially the women and other vulnerable groups giving them management authorities as well as their increased responsibility for the management of such resources.

Ch. 7: Mainstreaming Biodiversity in National Planning and Policy Processes

Context: The fate of natural ecosystems depends to a large extent on a wide range of national policies and programmes for economic development or the lack of policies and plans to advance environmental objectives. This is particularly true for the development of roads, urbanization, and industrial development in coastal areas and near inland waters.

Issues: Biodiversity values are not well reflected in the current national reporting and accounting systems due to the absence of appropriate valuation of biodiversity, inadequate assessment of the impact of biodiversity loss on the livelihoods of the poor, and lack of a clear understanding of how the restoration of ecosystem goods and services can contribute to poverty alleviation.

Strategies and Action:

  1. Technical and administrative capacity will be developed for the valuation of biodiversity using low-cost tools and methods that, in addition to economic values, recognize social and cultural values;
  2. Biodiversity valuation studies shall be undertaken and demonstration projects initiated in ecosystems where people rely heavily on biodiversity for subsistence.

Strategic Goal B:
“Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use”[24]

ABTs 5-10 primarily focus on unburdening ecosystems from human dependence and creating more sustainable methods of usage. The targets mention working towards halving the loss of all natural habitats such as forests (ABT5), mitigating degradation, and protecting ecosystems vulnerable to climate change like coral reefs (ABT10). They also mention sustainable management, the harvesting of fisheries and preventing overfishing (ABT6), as well as controlling and eradicating invasive species (ABT9).

Pakistan’s NBSAP dedicates chapters 8 to 11 to different ecosystems and their conservation.[25] The NBSAP sufficiently outlines existing issues with the way biodiversity is threatened within Pakistan’s many ecosystems. For example, forests are threatened by the rapidly growing population, deforestation due to illegal logging and commercial agriculture, the need for wood as fire fuel, and overgrazing of cattle. Meanwhile wetlands are threatened by overfishing and loss of breeding grounds for fish resulting in species like the Kashmiri Catfish becoming critically endangered. The NBSAP offers the following solutions for such issues:


Chapter 9: Forest Ecosystems


  1. Knowledge and technologies relating to forest biodiversity, its values, functions, status and trends will be improved to prevent loss of forest biodiversity, and mitigation measures adopted including reforms of the rights and concessions of local people.

Chapter 10. Inland Wetland Ecosystems


  1. Biodiversity considerations shall be included in the policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks to ensure the conservation of fish and other aquatic organisms
  2. Measures shall be taken to prevent the introduction of freshwater invasive species and control their spread to other areas

Strategic Goal C:

To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.” [26]

ABTs 11-13 deal primarily with implementing protective measures to sustain ecosystems and valuable species. Although the NBSAP does not have a specific chapter dedicated to this goal, examples of the ABTs that fall under this goal can be seen in in the strategies and actions in different chapters of the NBSAP.


Chapter 8:  Terrestrial Ecosystems, Habitats, and Species


  1. Recovery plans will be prepared and implemented to improve the conservation status of major threatened species of flora and fauna (Annex 2) in different ecosystems (ABT 12)

Chapter 9: Forest Ecosystems


  1. Representative forest landscapes of special importance for biodiversity will be designated as Forest Biodiversity Reserves and effectively managed (ABT 11)
  2. Canal and roadside plantations will be made biodiversity friendly to play a significant role for conservation of the pollinators, avifauna and serving as corridors between fragmented habitats (ABT 11)

Chapter 12: Sustainable Agriculture and Agrobiodiversity


  1. The considerations of sustainable agriculture, bio diversification of agroecosystems, conservation of pollinators and soil biodiversity, wise use of transgenic organisms, and climate change will be incorporated in agriculture policies and plans by 2017(ABT 13)
  2. Important local varieties, land races and breeds will be improved by 2020 through selection for resistance to disease, drought tolerance, and for increased production (ABT 13)

Strategic Goal D

“Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services”[28]

The ABTs under this goal focus primarily on how to increase the benefit accrued from biodiversity, and they require States to take measures to conserve biodiversity and ecology while simultaneously maximizing the benefit that can be achieved, such as building ecosystem resilience through the restoration of forests (ABT15). This goal also refers to the enhancement of living standards through the protection of biodiversity, with specific reference to marginalised peoples such as indigenous and poverty-stricken communities as well as women (ABT14).

Like Strategic Goal C, the ABTs from this goal are distributed through the other chapters of Pakistan’s NBSAP, particularly the ones regarding specific ecosystems like forests, as these instruct on how to conserve and utilse the ecosystems effectively and sustainably.[29]


Chapter 6: Gender, Poverty, and Biodiversity Nexus

Issues: “Common resources are depleted over time due to over-exploitation resulting in deteriorating ecosystems, livelihood burdens, increased poverty and decreased health and women and children are more affected.”[31]


  1. Case studies need to be conducted illustrating customary use of biological resources, households participating in traditional activities and consumption of traditional foods.

Chapter 8: Terrestrial Ecosystems, Habitats, and Species


  1. At least 20% of degraded ecosystems of ecological significance will be restored to combat desertification and demonstrate economic, social, and cultural benefits (ABT 15)

Chapter 9: Forest Ecosystems


  1. Landscapes that provide essential services related to water for major dams, and contribute to health, livelihoods, and well-being of local communities will be restored by 2020 and safeguarded (ABT 14)
  2. At least 25% of all degraded forest ecosystems will be restored by 2020 to improve their resilience and contribution to carbon stocks (ABT 15)

Strategic Goal E:

“Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building”[32]

The final goal contains 4 ABTs that focus on effective implementation of the Aichi principles by States. This means implementation through financial mechanisms, national policy frameworks, science-based technologies, and the utilisation of knowledge from indigenous communities.

Pakistan’s NBSAP provides a plan for its implementation and monitoring in Section 3. Chapter 16 discusses the implementation of the NBSAP, mentioning specifically the creation of a Coordination Committee. Chapters 17 and 18 discuss resource mobilisation. The NBSAP notes that although there are limitations on financial resources and pressing needs for investments in socio-economic sectors, investments in biodiversity are likely to remain a low priority. Therefore, resources would be mobilised in other ways to mitigate the lack of financial investment. For example:

Chapter 17: Communication and Outreach Strategy

“Suitable training modules will be developed and introduced in the training programmes for senior policy makers, planners and parliamentarians at the National School of Public Policy (NSPP), the National Institute of Management (NIM), and the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Studies (PIPS). In addition … communication resources will be mobilized to raise awareness regarding biodiversity and its importance”[33]

Chapter 18: Plan for Resource Mobilization

“Many actions of the NBSAP to achieve Aichi Biodiversity Targets will either neatly fit in or will be accommodated in the existing development budget of various biodiversity related sectors at the national, provincial and regional levels…”[34]

“Opportunities will also be explored to tap funds available under Green Climate Fund (GCF) in coordination with Climate Finance Unit at MOCC, particularly for actions under the climate change theme”[35]


Overall, Pakistan’s NBSAP seems to be an effective reflection of international biodiversity standards. It provides guidance to policymakers in a comprehensive and well-structured manner, by explaining the existing situation and which strategies and actions can be used to rectify current shortcomings. It successfully integrates all Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and provides realistic plans of implementation, as well as tools for monitoring and review. However, while the substance and structure of the NBSAP adequately incorporates international law standards, its efficacy can only truly be tested in the implementation phase, as that is where we will see how well the NBSAPs design works on the ground.


[1] IPBES, ‘The Global Assessment Report On BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES’ (2019).

[2] ‘Importance Of Biodiversity’ (Australia State of the Environment, 2016) <,%2C%20hiking%2C%20camping%20and%20fishing.> accessed 4 April 2022.

[3] IPBES, ‘The Global Assessment Report On BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES’ (2019).

[4] Ibid n.3

[5] ‘National Biodiversity Strategy And Action Plan .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform’ (, 1999) <> accessed 3 April 2022.

[6] ‘Pakistan National Biodiversity Strategy And Action Plan’ (2014).

[7] Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1993 2022. Ratified by Pakistan in 1994

[8] (, 2022) <> accessed 10 April 2022.

[9] IISD’s Hub, ‘UNEP Report Assesses National Biodiversity Strategies And Action Plans (Nbsaps) | News | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD’ (, 2022) <> accessed 10 April 2022.

[10] ‘Biodiversity Loss – Ecological Effects’ (Encyclopedia Britannica) <> accessed 10 April 2022.

[11] ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets’ ( <> accessed 10 April 2022.

[12] Government of Pakistan, ‘Biodiversity Action Plan Pakistan’ (1999).


[14] Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, ‘Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report 2013’ (2022).

[15]  Ibid n.11

[16] Ibid. n11

[17] Pakistan National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2017.

[18] Ibid. n17

[19] Ibid n.17

[20] Ibid n.17

[21] Ibid n.17

[22] Ibid n.17

[23] Ibid n.17

[24] Ibid. n11

[25] Ibid n.17

[26] Ibid n.17

[27] Ibid n.17

[28] Ibid n.11

[29] Ibid n.17

[30] Ibid n.17

[31] Ibid n.17

[32] Ibid. n11

[33] Ibid n.16

[34] Ibid n.16

[35] Ibid n.16

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