Pakistan’s valuable ecosystems are vulnerable to unsustainable use and destruction. Like many developing countries, Pakistan is exposed to “the catastrophic convergence of postcolonial militarisation and ethnic fragmentation,” and may soon be “collapsing under internationally brokered debt and climate change,” which may transform vulnerable ecosystems into “abattoirs of extinction” (New Philosopher, 2016).
Poorer communities living near important ecosystems have high discount rates, causing them to prioritise subsistence (by way of degrading biodiversity) over sustainable living. This threat is amplified by the country’s timber, agricultural, mining and hydropower industries’ interest in environmental destruction.
These land use decisions solely represent nature’s direct consumptive value, and fail to account for other aspects of biodiversity’s value:
- Nature’s direct non-consumptive value, such as sustainable tourism, which consumes biodiversity without depleting it.
- Indirect use value: leaving ecosystems intact yields positive externalities spanning improved equity, food security and climate change resilience (EPI, 2018).
- Option values, which refer to the utility available from using nature in the future.
- Nature’s non-use value: the inherent worth of ecosystems (Kontoleon, 2017).
Consequently, biodiverse ecosystems will be undervalued and overexploited with respect to their “true worth”, making habitat loss the consequence of a series of market failures that mandate corrective intervention. Large conservation areas (LCAs) are one such remedial measure.