Speakers highlighted the significance of mangroves in balancing coastal ecosystem, and warned that cutting of mangroves for land reclamation and dumping of untreated sewerage waste are the major threats to mangroves.
To mark the International Biodiversity Day the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme organised a seminar at the HEJ – Research Institute Chemistry, University of Karachi. Theme of the year for the International Biodiversity Day was “Marine Biodiversity”.
The seminar focused to specifically address the researchers and academicians and major stakeholders in the coastal resources. Rafiul Haq, National Coordinator for MFF- Pakistan presented an overview of the MFF- Programme since its inception while enumerating its achievement up till now. He also emphasized on the relevance of the day with the MFF defined Programme of works. He invited the academicians and researchers to come forward with tangible solutions and immediate benefits to the communities living in the coastal belt.
Dr Shaukat Hayat Khan of National Institute of Oceanography briefed the participants on the importance of coastal and marine resources with national perspective. He informed that Pakistan has a coastline stretched over 240,000 square kilometers and that the Arabian Sea is a highly productive area, besides producing fish, it is also a source of minerals, fuels, sediments, energy, etc.
Highlighting the importance of the coastal and marine resources, Dr. Shaukat Hayat Khan discussed the potential of tidal power to be seen as one of the vital sources of green energy generation. He maintained that lives of fishing people are threatened due to degradation of the Indus Delta. He stressed on the need for community based Natural Resource Management and mainstreaming of the poverty and environment linkages at the decision making level.
Talking about the environmental issues and concerns, such as climate change, industrialisation and urbanisation, he strongly proposed proper management of waste – plastic trash, oil spills, sewage, toxicants etc in order to keep the oceans clean.
Prof. Dr. S.M. Saifullah from Karachi Mangrove Ecosystem Laboratory of Karachi University had a very balanced view about climate change. He observed that the impact of global warming can be both beneficial and harmful for the environment. He also highlighted the possible effects of global warming on the mangroves of the Indus Delta.
Dr. Saifullah was of the opinion that global warming can be a part of a natural as well as human-induced cycle. This phenomenon was helpful in making this planet livable in the beginning. But now as glaciers melt, it increases the sea level thus posing a threat to low-lying areas. As the sea level rises, the mangroves Ievel will also rise due to sedimentation. This will prevent seawater from flooding the land. The mangrove forests on the coastlines can fight back the strong wave action. Their dense and strong root system can ward off tsunamis,” he said. According to him, 30 trees per 100 square metres can contain the maximum strength of a tsunami by more than 90 per cent.
“So let the mangroves grow and conserve them so that we have no fear of sea rise,” he said. He strongly recommended proper check on mangroves deforestation through laws and strict control of coastal development; besides reforestation of denuded areas to recover the mangrove loss caused over decades.
The final presentation on threats and challenges to coastal and marine biodiversity was made by the former Director General of the Marine Fisheries Department, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, who is currently associated with the WWF-Pakistan. He cited commercial fishing as a threat to Pakistan’s marine biodiversity.
He lamented that the communities are catching fish beyond their capacity and then exporting dried fish meal as manure. The use of the small fishing mesh is also creating devastation in the ocean as it catches planktons and other small marine forms that the bigger fish feed on. Land reclamation and unplanned development is another issue that is severely hurting our marine life. Despite all the negatives, Pakistan’s marine life is still sustaining a large part of the population, he said.
The seminar also included the screening of two documentaries tiled: Sea Turtles - a South Walton Community Council presentation and the other titled: Mangroves, the Guardians of the Coast – an MFF-India production. The documentaries depicted mangrove forests supporting livelihoods of Sundarban and devastation of communities in India due to destruction of mangroves.
A large number of participants from six different departments attend the seminar, other participants hailed from the development sector and the media.
For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Mr. Rafiul Haq, National Coordinator MFF- Pakistan
IUCN Country Office (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
Karachi Phone: +92 21 35835760, Fax: +92 21 35870287