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- Friday, March 09, 2012 - From Print Edition




At the time of the creation of Pakistan, there were eight different species of mangroves, which have been reduced to four due to the drastic cutting of mangrove forests by the coastal communities.


There is a need to educate people regarding their significance and launch a camp approaching at least 1 million people for the conservation of mangroves, which can easily be declared as “jewels of coastlines”.


This call was made by environmentalists at a conference on mangroves at a local hotel on Thursday. They also urged law enforcers and policymakers to play their due role in the preservation of mangroves to protect the coastal communities.


The conference was organised by the Human Resource Development Network (HRDN) in collaboration with the Mangroves for the Future (MFF). IUCN Global Vice President Javed Jabbar deplored that even the educated class did not know about the significance of the trees and the shrubs.


Jabbar said development did not mean the erection of high-rise buildings, production of vehicles and other luxuries at the cost of the environment. He also highlighted the significance of creating awareness regarding the mangroves.


He urged the media to cover environmental issues more often.


Chairman NDMA Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir spoke about the role of mangroves in disaster risk-reduction in the face of rising natural disasters. He stressed on the collection of data for the setting up of a centre of excellence to be dedicated to the socio-economic and ecological aspects of the mangroves.


Conservator Forests Sindh Forest Department Riaz Waggan gave an overview of the mangroves along the Sindh and Balochistan coasts and how they had disappeared. Natural Resource Manager IUCN Syed Ghulam Qadir Shah spoke about the causes and effects of the degradation of the coastal ecosystem.


Umair Shahid of the WWF gave a visual presentation on the loss of land to sea in the Thatta district with special mention of Keti Bunder, urging for immediate action to combat the loss of habitat and livelihood in the area.


Tahir Javed of the Engro Foundation talked about the importance of doing business responsibly, stressing that corporate bodies could not risk reputation loss or legal and punitive action owing to ecologically unsound activities.


Coordinator MFF Dr. Steen Christensen presented a regional overview of how the importance of mangroves was realised in the aftermath of the 2003 tsunami. He cited examples of other parts of South East Asia where livelihood of substitution had to be promoted to rehabilitate ecosystems.


IUCN Regional Director Asia Aban Marker Kabraji, who is also the co-chair of the steering committee of the MFF, pointed out that it was interesting that the conference was being held on the International Women’s Day, signifying gender an important component of the MFF.


She stressed in Pakistan, where a large number of women were involved in livelihood activities directly related to the coastal ecosystems, should be involved in the conservation activities by increasing their awareness level.


She gave a brief background of the formation of the MFF, its scope and the role it plans to play in the rehabilitation of the coastal ecosystem. Inspector General Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir gave a vote of thanks and stressed on the need to realise the importance of forests.


The programme culminated with the announcement of an awareness-raising field trip to the mangroves on Friday. Chairperson Roomi Hayat gave an account of how he was introduced to the environmental issues through similar awareness sessions. The documentaries titled ‘Mangroves: The defenders of the coast MFF-India’ and ‘Sentries of the coast MFF-Pakistan’ were also screened on the occasion.