Mangroves For the Future RSC kicks off in Karachi

DAY 1 – Coastal Resilience in the wake of Climate Change through Private Sector Engagement was the theme at the 9th Regional Steering Committee of Mangroves for the Future (MFF) initiative in Karachi, Pakistan.

9th MFF Regional Steering Committee meeting, Karachi, Pakistan Photo: MFF, 2012

Representatives of the eight MFF member countries, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam convened in the coastal city of Karachi to discuss and present the progress in coastal management efforts in their respective countries. MFF outreach countries Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar joined them. FAO, UNEP, Wetlands International, partners of the MFF Initiative were represented.

Dr. Steen Christensen, MFF Coordinator in his welcome remarks stressed the need for collective efforts from all possible sectors to mitigate these effects (Climate Change) and ensure protection, food security and adequate livelihood opportunities for vulnerable communities".

IUCN Regional Director Asia, Aban Marker Kabraji in her introductory speech briefed the participants about the ever-increasing pressure on coastal ecosystems from human activities. She said, “In countries like Thailand for example, more than 70% of the mangrove areas have been cleared for economic activities such as shrimp farming". She also stressed on the need for pro-active engagement with the private sector and emphasized that coastal management will depend largely on the will of the private sector to move towards sustainable practices and MFF principles.

Bangladesh was welcomed by the 9th MFF Regional Steering Committee as its newest member, increasing the number of participating countries to nine. Speaking at the inauguration, UNDP's Regional Environment Advisor Joseph D'Cruz said, "It has been good to see the continued growth of the MFF Partnership, both in terms of new members as well as in the breadth of issues and approaches being adopted.  The inclusion of Bangladesh as the 9th MFF Member Country greatly strengthens our regional network.  Bangladesh's widely-renown expertise on mangrove and coastal zone management will be a huge asset, and the effectiveness and dynamic of the Bangladesh NCB have been a great example for us all".

Chief Guest, Mr. Javed Jabbar, former Vice President IUCN and Regional Councilor stressed on the importance of spreading awareness and said, “The task of educating and informing people about their importance of mangroves is immense. There is much to learn from the experiences of different countries in mangroves and costal conservation efforts. Coasts are "conflict zones" in terms of the state, communities and corporate interests and it requires dexterous management to find a balance between conflicting interests. This is a challenge our governments have to overcome".

Inspector General of Forests MOCC, Pakistan - Mr. Syed Mehmood Nasir - on behalf of Mehmood Alam - remarked, "In the wake of the Sandy storm and the Tsunami in Japan, it is heartening to see that the a regional initiative like MFF project is taking steps to respond to imminent dangers to vulnerable communities."

During the opening session, a Call for Action was also launched. Sharing its details, Dr. Donald Macintosh, Senior Advisor for MFF said, "The Call for Action document emerged from the deliberations at the MFF regional colloquium held earlier this year in India succinctly summarizes the state of affairs of mangroves conservation in the region." The MFF Regional Colloquium was held from 30-31 August 2012 in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

Although India, Pakistan and few other countries have success stories to share, globally mangroves are still in decline by 1% per year. The 12-point Call for Action document underpins an urgent call for better and effective regional cooperation for mangroves protection and serves as a guide for better government decision-making.

The progress made by MFF member countries during the past year and plans for the coming year were presented and discussed in the RSC meetings.  The Committee also examined how economies are dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services, simultaneously acknowledging that many far-sighted businesses are recognizing opportunities in the greening of investor, client and consumer preferences. Some businesses have made public commitments to ecological neutrality. Even relatively straightforward ecological restoration as compensation for resource extraction or land use change can deliver biodiversity benefits.

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