IUCN Pakistan’s coastal expert speaks at a Rotary Club function

01 March 2010 | News story

KARACHI March 1: Rotary Club Karachi held its weekly luncheon meeting at the Pearl Continental Hotel. On its meeting of March 1, 2010, Tahir Qureshi, Coastal Ecosystem Expert from IUCN (international Union for Conservation of Nature) was invited as the guest speaker, to sensitize the Rotarians to the environmental issues, especially near the coast.

A career forester, Tahir Qureshi has extensive experience of working for mangrove rehabilitation not only in Pakistan but in the Gulf, Sri Lanka and Far East.

The proceedings began with recitation from the Holy Quran by Past President, Rotarian Syed Sami ul Hasan. After that, an address of welcome was given by the Acting President, Rotarian Masood Sheikh, in which he welcomed the audience and introduced the guests speaker.

Thereafter, the Secretary, Saleem Zamindar made the announcements.

A presentation by Komal Diwan was given about the activities of Ryla Asia at the Rotary and Rotract Leadership Conference.

The President then asked the guest speaker Mr. Tahir Qureshi to give his presentation.

Mr. Qureshi began with a brief introduction about his organization, IUCN, which is the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which was founded in 1948 as the world’s first global environmental organization. It has more than 1,000 member organizations in 140 countries including 200+ government and 800+ non-government organization, with almost 11,000 voluntary scientists and experts, grouped in six Commissions.

Coming on to the coastal situation in Pakistan, he explained that Pakistan had an almost 1000 km long coastline, which had three natural locations of mangrove forests, a number that has gone up to 7 though IUCN’s efforts.

He said that while Sindh had a sheltered coast, Balochistan’s coast was exposed to the vagaries of the elements like tidal action, and run off of the seasonal hill torrents. The Mangroves not only served as a natural barrier to such erosion, but also served as the nurseries of marine life like fish, shrimps, lobsters, crabs etc, and were essential for the livelihood of the coastal communities.
They are also the habitat for terrestrial wildlife and birds, both resident and migratory.

These mangroves are undergoing many human induced stresses, and the clearest proof of this was that whereas in 1966 there were 600,000 hectares of dense and sparse mangroves, in 2002, there were only 86-90,000 hectares left.

The reduction of fresh water downstream Kotri has played havoc with the coastal ecosystem and had destroyed the riverine forests along side the Indus, from where tigers had been reported, and on the agricultural belt in Thatta, red rice was cultivated and exported to other parts of India. He said that 35 MAF has been calculated as the minimum requirement downstream Kotri.

Other measures that need to be taken are to stop the pollution of the water courses as industrial, agricultural and municipal waste is directly being disposed off in the river and sea, destroying marine life.
He also cited the example of the destruction of the mangroves along the Mai Kolachi road, and said that these served as carbon sinks for the city, and measures must be taken to protect them.

At the end of his presentation, he was presented a memento by Past District Governor, Rotarian Dr. Abdul Haiye Khan.