Wednesday February 28, 2024

‘Karachi has lost over 235 acres of mangrove cover in 12 years’

Major reasons for the decrease are illegal allotments of land in mangrove areas and cutting of mangroves for land reclamation

October 13, 2023
Indus delta mangroves are perhaps unique in being the largest arid climate mangroves in the world. — Sindh Forest website
 Indus delta mangroves are perhaps unique in being the largest arid climate mangroves in the world. — Sindh Forest website 

Out of the total 667,660 hectares of the Indus delta mangroves land in Sindh, the sea intrusion area, also known as the intertidal area, encompasses 51,250 hectares.

The legal status of this land has not yet been determined. In the past 12 years, Karachi has lost a total of 235.2 acres of its mangrove cover in different areas.

The Sindh Forest Department’s future plans include earning carbon credits from the intertidal area by planting mangroves, according to chief conservator Riaz Wagan. He said farmers who lost their land due to sea intrusion would receive a portion of the carbon credit revenue from the intertidal area if they can prove ownership of their land.

On Wednesday the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change had visited the WWF-Pakistan’s (WWF-P) Wetland Centre in Karachi, where they were provided with an insightful briefing on mangrove conservation initiatives. The WWF-P and the forest department’s conservation efforts over the years have significantly increased mangrove cover in Pakistan.

Briefing the standing committee, Wagan said the forest department owns 280,000 hectares of land of the Indus delta mangroves, the Sindh Board of Revenue owns 272,000 hectares, the Port Qasim Authority 64,400 hectares and the Karachi Port Trust 2,000 hectares, while the rest of the 51,260 hectares is the intertidal area.

The provincial government is implementing two Indus delta mangrove projects, Delta Blue Carbon-1 (DBC) and DBC-2, in collaboration with private entities to generate $14.7 million in revenue for the province.

The government had launched DBC in 2015. The project aims to cover 350,000 hectares of tidal wetlands in Sindh over 60 years and sequester 124 million tonnes of carbon.

Blue carbon is different from land-based carbon sequestration. It is the carbon captured by the coastal ecosystems. Blue-carbon-centric projects are focused on restoring marine ecology.

Wagan said that about 140,000 hectares have been restored between 2012 and 2023 under various interventions. The WWF-P’s assessment shows around 160,000 hectares of visible mangroves in the delta, and about 80,000 hectares restored in the past six years.

Speaking on the decrease in mangrove cover area around Karachi between 2010 and 2022, Wagan said that 62.5 acres had decreased in the Kakapir area, eight acres in Mauripur, 42 acres in Shamspir, 11 acres near the Beach Luxury Hotel and 55 acres near Machar Colony.

At Hawkesbay 15 acres has decreased, at Sultanabad / Hijrat Colony 11.5 acres, at Boat Basin / Mai Kolachi 1.2 acres and at Sandspit/Manora 29 acres.

Among the major reasons for the decrease are illegal allotments of land in mangrove areas, cutting of mangroves for land reclamation by land grabbers, dumping of waste material for reclamation and stoppage of seawater towards mangroves, and lack of cooperation by the local police in lodging FIRs.

The WWF-P’s Nadeem Khalid briefed the senators on the initiation of encroachments in a protected mangrove site in the Kakapir area seven years ago. He said the WWF-P had notified the authorities about the issue, but they were requested to handle the encroachers themselves.

He pointed out that the encroachers began selling plots for Rs50 million a plot on the mangrove land. As they progressed, they approached the KPT, which informed them that the land belonged to the forest department, as it was a protected mangrove site.

Later, they appealed to the Sindh High Court, which issued a stay order. Khalid said the encroachers claimed they were engaged in plotting under the Sindh Gothabad Scheme but they failed to provide the relevant documents to the court. He expressed disappointment at the limited involvement of the authorities in tackling such encroachments.

Senators Seemi Ezdi, Abida Azeem, Dr Muhammad Humayun Mohmand, Khalida Ateeb and Keshoo Bai, committee secretary Wajiha Riaz and the climate ministry’s Asif Sahibzada joined the WWF-P’s Khalid, Sara Taher Khan and Hammad Naqi Khan during the visit.

Speaking to the media, the Senate standing committee stressed the importance of introducing and sustaining both short- and long-term nature-based solutions to encourage mangrove conservation efforts and measures that are globally known to sustain and empower such programmes for a greener future.