Thursday, August 7, 2008

Saving the last Mangroves of Karachi

Mangroves are a wonderful being of ALLAH. They are species of plants which thrive in saline waters. Their roots grow best under fertile land and maybe found at places where deltas are formed due to discharge of river (sweet) water into sea waters (saline). They are important for survival of countless land and sea species and hundreds of thousands of men earn their livelihood through them (fishing, cutting trees, making homes, hunting, etc). Therefore, it is imperative that such wonderful and unique species are preserved for the betterment of people and environment. That’s not happening. From the lead organization:

“In Pakistan, mangroves are found along the southern borders of the country along the coast of Sindh and Balochistan. The Indus Delta extends to an area of approximately 600,000 hectares of which 160,000 consists of mangrove forests. These are unique in the sense that they are considered to be the largest area of arid climate mangroves in the world”.

And, further:

“In the Karachi area, 135,000 people depend on the mangroves for their livelihood. For villages surrounding the forests, the mangroves provide food, fodder and fuel-wood. There are approximately 100,000 people who take a total of 18,000 tonnes of fuel-wood each year from the mangroves (Davis, 1993). In addition, 3,200 buffaloes and 6,000 camels also consume some 67 million kilograms of leaves and 19.5 million kilograms of grass (Qureshi, 1992). Much of Pakistan’s fishing industry relies on the fish found in the mangroves, notably shrimp, which are the principal fisheries export of Pakistan. Of the US$ 100 million that Pakistan earns in fisheries foreign exchange, shrimp accounts for 68 percent (Davis, 1993). Mangroves are also important for recreation purposes with high potential for eco-tourism. The Indus Delta is an important migratory route for millions of waterfowl that need to feed and breed during the winter months. Some 80 species of birds, such as pelicans, flamingoes and herons may be found in the Indus Delta mangroves (IUCN, 1999). Mangrove forests also provide protection to the coastal areas from strong winds and ocean currents. Their vegetation also helps in reducing coastline erosion because the roots collect sediments that flow into the sea from the river.

“Over the past 13 years, the degradation of Pakistan’s mangroves has occurred at the rate of 6 percent per annum. As a result, only 16 percent of Pakistan’s mangroves are thought to be healthy (Qureshi, 1992). The most harmful environmental stress that the mangroves face today derives largely from human activity. The steady growth of a major industrial city within the vicinity, the untreated sewage and industrial discharge, the increase in the demand for fuel wood, overgrazing and over-exploitation of resources are just a few of the strains on the mangrove’s ecosystem. Steel mills, refineries and power stations are some of the large polluting industries found in the area. Tanneries are perhaps the worst. Their untreated effluents, massively loaded with heavy metals, are being disposed daily into the sea, thereby contaminating the food chain. High concentrations of heavy metal such as lead, zinc, copper, nickel, cadmium, mercury and cobalt have recently been recorded in marine biota and sediments (Davis, 1993). They are hazardous and poisonous for all forms of life.”

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