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Nairobi, 13 February 2024 – Efforts by local communities and civil society groups to protect and restore Pakistan’s Indus Basin, which has been rapidly degrading, are gaining momentum through the Government of Pakistan’s Living Indus initiative. Boosting biodiversity, climate mitigation and community resilience through nature- based solutions, these efforts were today named as one of seven UN World Restoration Flagships.

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives following global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China.

“The Living Indus initiative presents a unique opportunity to enhance the resilience of the Indus ecosystem in the face of climate change,” said Ahmad Irfan Aslam, Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination. “This holistic strategy employs community-led, gender-responsive, and transparent nature- based solutions for restoring the entire Indus Basin, safeguarding its resources for
the people of Pakistan.”

The Basin is also home to 195 mammal species, at least 668 bird species, and over 150 fish species, including 22 endemic ones and the endangered Indus Blind Dolphin, one of the world’s rarest mammals.

In recent years, Pakistan has experienced some of its most catastrophic floods and extreme heat waves on record, as well as spiralling air pollution levels, all of which are exacerbated by climate change and severely affect the lives and livelihoods of millions.

“Pakistan’s climate induced disasters in recent years have been heart-breaking, causing destruction on a scale that no nation can, or should have to, accept,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “It is therefore important to recognize and support projects like the Living Indus initiative for the hope and resilience it can offer Pakistan and the region.”

The Living Indus initiative advances the sustainable management of the Indus River Basin, seeking to balance water resource use, ecosystem preservation, and socio- economic development.

By promoting responsible water management, reducing pollution, preserving biodiversity, and enhancing community engagement, it helps ensure a climate resilient future for Pakistan.

The basin-wide initiative has already restored 1,350,000 hectares. It encompasses 25 projects, and it is estimated to cost up to USD 17 billion. With its recognition as a World Restoration Flagship, the Living Indus initiative will now be eligible for additional technical and financial UN support, bolstering its plans to restore 25 million hectares of the river basin by 2030 (encompassing more than 30 per cent of Pakistan’s area).

“Pakistan and its people have been living off the Indus Basin for 6,000 years. Today, 95 per cent of the population, all the country’s agriculture and most of its industries depend on it,” said Julien Harneis, UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan. “However, it suffers not only from the impact of climate change, but also from human-induced environmental degradation. The Living Indus Initiative brings together the government, civil society, the UN and all the countries that support Pakistan to protect the Indus’ future.”

As a World Restoration Flagship, the Living Indus Initiative is recognized as one of the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The announcement of seven new World Restoration Flagships was made ahead of the 6th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), held between February 26 and March 1, 2024. The Assembly will convene the world’s Environment Ministers in Nairobi, Kenya to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

For more information, please contact:

News desk, UN Environment Programme: unep-newsdesk@un.org

In Pakistan: Ms Catherine Weibel: catherine.weibel@un.org (English and French) Ms Humaira Jehanzeb: humaira.jehanzeb@un.org (English and Urdu)