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Mangroves (Tropical Littoral & Swamp Forests)
Mangroves are more or less gregarious forests of low height which occur in the Arabian sea around the coast of Karachi and in Lasbela and Gwadar Districts of Balochistan. The main species is Avicennia marina (99%). According to the estimates, these forests cover an area of 207,000 ha.
A new study by Karachi University’s Institute of Environmental Studies shows high levels of pollution in the waters surrounding Pakistan’s second busiest harbour: Port Qasim.
Testing water samples for organic and inorganic waste, the researchers concluded that the high levels of pollution endangered the area’s biodiversity.
This is not news. It’s a confirmation of established and oft-repeated fears by local fishermen and environmentalists.
Did you know that?
Pakistan is recognized to have the 7th largest mangrove forests in the world. These are one of the primary features of coastal ecosystems and are widely spread across the coast of Pakistan. The majority of mangroves forests are found in the Indus Delta, a region categorized as one of the most productive Global 200 Ecoregions of the world.“The annual deforestation rate of Pakistan is 1.63%. In the early 1970s, when the port was being constructed, eight species of mangroves flourished. Today, only four remain.
While there have been efforts to make up for some of the lost mangrove covers by the Forest Department and IUCN, it might still not be enough, especially not for a city like Karachi, which has hardly any forest cover.
Importance of Mangroves
- Mangroves are the first line of defence against cyclones, strong surges, tsunami and other natural calamities impacting the coastal areas of Pakistan.
- They are critically important because of their role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, community livelihoods, and food security.
- Mangroves are considered as jewels of the coastline as they enhance its aesthetic value and appeal to a diverse species of birds.
- Around 0.2 million people directly rely on the services provided by mangrove forests in Pakistan.
- The mangrove ecosystem is very productive and provides shelter and nursing ground for different fish species as well as other fauna of the area.
- Mangroves also help in lowering the temperatures.
Threats to Mangroves
- Presently, mangroves face multiple threats such as environmental degradation, ruthless cutting, and dumping of sewage wastewater.
- The reduced freshwater flow in the Indus delta and other mangrove forest areas is leading to declining in productivity and nourishment of their habitats leading to the death of the plants.
- In recent years, toxic waste in the form of untreated sewage, industrial effluent, and bloodied water drained from the nearby cattle colony – in case of Karachi Mangroves, has proved to be the biggest challenge to the survival of mangroves.
- On a daily basis, around 472m gallons of waste are released into the sea; which poisons the surrounding vegetation and marine life.
- A hatching ground for fish, and critical to sustaining the delicate ecological balance of the area, mangroves that fall under the authority of the Port Qasim Authority and the Karachi Port Trust are the most endangered.
- The major coal-handling operations approved by the PQA this year will only add to the already considerable problems. Alarmingly, the board did not even wait for clearance from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency before going ahead with its operations.
Surely, our policymakers have to be more farsighted than this and to focus on the threat to the environment. After all, the well-being of our natural surroundings depends on more than just hopes and prayers.