The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet, with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in chair accorded approval on Tuesday for the establishment of biosphere reserve in the province, informed Chief Conservator Wildlife Department Dr. Mohsin Farooq. He said with the establishment of this first-ever biosphere reserve, the total protected areas would reach to 16.85 per cent of the province. “The decision to establish biosphere reserve is taken in accordance with section 30 of KP Wildlife and Biodiversity Act 2015 which states that ‘when an area has potential for promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use, government may by notification declare the area to be a biosphere reserve comprising of a core zone, a buffer zone and multiple use zone’,” explained Dr. Farooq. “Biosphere reserves are the protected areas meant for the conservation of plants and animals. It also restores the traditional life of the people living in that vicinity and conserve biodiversity of that area,” he said. The approved biosphere reserve would spread over an area of 220,848 acres and consist of Bashqar Gol and Shandur Valleys situated near Laspur Valley in Upper Chitral district. Giving a break up of total 220, 848 acres of land, Chief Conservator Wildlife Department said, its core zone consists of 124,704.2 acres: 59,273.17 acres as buffer zone and 36,870.59 acres as multiple use zone. “The proposed area of Bashqar Gol provides prime habitat for certain charismatic wild animals, including snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan lynx, cape hare, red fox, ungulates/ large mammals like Himalayan ibex and Ram Chakor, Chukar partridge, Tibetan wolf and Indian jackal.” Dr. Farooq also informed that KP government had recently notified Shahi Nagar Community Game Reserve in Buner district. The Shahi Nagar community Game Reserve would spread over an area of around 161 hectares, he added He said the department had been working for increasing the range of protected areas from existing 16.85 percent to 18 percent by adding more areas in near future.