KARACHI: Due to lack of care, deforestation and a decrease in the flow of freshwater into the sea, the mangroves situated on Sindh’s coastal line are in danger, as the number of forests is gradually diminishing.
Mangroves are various species of trees and shrubs that grow in coastal swamps and form dense groves. Although mangroves thrive in saline water, they require inflow of fresh water through rivers for nourishment.
Benefits of mangroves
Mangroves provide food for fish and other marine animals and, hence, are a natural habitat for a variety of sea species. Around 90% of seafood caught in Sindh feed on mangroves or creatures that live in mangroves. Therefore, conservation of these forests is necessary for sustainable fisheries. A healthy mangrove forest on one hectare of land can provide up to 100 kilogrammes of fish, 25kg of prawns and 15kg of crab meat annually.
For the people residing along coastline, these forests offer fuel and animal feed.
Besides being fodder and a habitat for land and marine animals, mangroves also provide great utility in protecting and preserving the environment. On average, mangroves absorb 18% more carbon dioxide than other plants. Moreover, they help against erosion and save the land from sea torrents and floods. These forests help save millions of funds by maintaining the terrain of the coast and ports.
Mangroves in Sindh
Pakistan’s coastline is approximately 1,000 kilometres long of which Sindh’s share is around 350km. The provincial coastline comprises 17 large creeks and swamp areas and numerous small ones where mangrove forests thrive.
Mangroves cover an area around 600,000 hectares in Sindh, of which 280,470 hectares are owned by the provincial forest department. These forests consist of four mangrove species which include Avicennia marina, Rhizopora mucronata, Ceriops tagal and Aegiceras corniculatum. The most abundant species is Avicennia marina which constitutes up to 90% of the total mangrove population in the province.
In recent years, mangroves have been adversely affected due to sea intrusion, as supply of fresh water to the delta of the Indus River has been decreasing. The area around the delta has become saline and mangroves, which need some freshwater supply, are not prospering due to this.
The decrease in mangroves has also resulted in a decrease in marine life near the delta. Resultantly, fishermen have started migrating from these areas due to lack of resources in the water.
Mangrove forests are also present in some coastal areas of Karachi. However, they are gradually decreasing due to water pollution and deforestation for the construction of buildings near the coast.
Commenting on the issue, Forest Department Mangroves Conservator Agha Tahir Hussain said the department has been working for the conservation of mangroves, adding that currently the department is also engaging people living along the coast for the purpose. Fifty households are being paid for the conservation of mangroves, the officer said.
Hussain said that an endowment fund for the conservation of mangroves will soon be set up. The government is also trying to sign global treaties in this regard, he added.
These measures will help sustain the source of income of fishermen and they will not have to migrate towards cities, the officer maintained. He added that the Guinness Book of World Records has also acknowledged Pakistan’s record of planting a total of 847,275 mangrove trees in 2013 which has not been surpassed till date.