Sunday April 14, 2024

Pakistani documentary screened at 5th NCIFF in Kathmandu

By News Desk
March 31, 2024
Mahera Omar’s documentary film ‘Sometimes Even the Shore Drowns’ screens at the 5th Nepal Cultural International Film Festival in Kathmandu on March 30, 2024. — Geo tv
Mahera Omar’s documentary film ‘Sometimes Even the Shore Drowns’ screens at the 5th Nepal Cultural International Film Festival in Kathmandu on March 30, 2024. — Geo tv

Pakistani documentary ‘Sometimes even the shore drowns’ (original Urdu title: ‘Kabhi aisai bhi hota hai ke kinare doob jate hain’) screened at the 5th Nepal Cultural International Film Festival (NCIFF) in Kathmandu on Saturday.

Inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1955 book ‘The Edge of the Sea’, this short film is a cinematic ode to the myriad marine life on the intertidal mudflats of Karachi, according to Mahera Omar, the documentary’s director, cinematographer and editor.

“Between the ebb and flow of tides, the city’s exposed shoreline is home to a fish that walks on land, the mud crab that clings tenaciously to mangrove tree trunks, the mighty periwinkle, the bubbler crab that spits out sand balls, the long-legged egret that fishes, the curlew that stalks fiddler crabs, and the carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs, aka the nudibranchs.

“Set against the backdrop of human activity in and around mangrove forest creeks, amidst steaming vessels and a new skyline, the film takes you on a silent journey through a delicate wetland ecosystem on the shores of an industrial city.”

Mahera Omar is a film-maker and co-founder of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, a non-profit that advocates biodiversity protection, environmental justice and compassion towards sentient beings.

Her films have been screened in Pakistan as well as at international film festivals, including Film South Asia, the Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Films Festival, and the Delhi International Film Festival.

Highlights of her filmography include ‘Perween Rahman — The Rebel Optimist’ and the Dream Journey’s musical travelogues. With an abiding interest in Karachi, its environment, plants and animals that share the city with its 20 million inhabitants, she works to document ecosystems that shape Karachi today.

She says that just off the coast of Karachi is a series of interconnected saltwater creeks lined with an extensive mangrove forest ecosystem. “These delicate wetlands are home to marine biodiversity as diverse as the lugworm on the intertidal mudflats to flocks of pelicans and pink flamingoes in the winter.”

She points out that each of these species is intricately connected to each other in the web of life, as are the fisherfolk community that depend on the forest for their livelihood.

Karachi is home to three species of mangroves, with Avicennia marina being the most abundant, she explains, remarking that its air breathing roots jut out from the mudflats, keeping them stable in the strongest of stormy weather.

The forest canopy, if allowed to reach its natural potential, can reach dizzying heights of up to 10 metres, and is a carbon store and source of oxygen for the megacity, she adds.

“Unfortunately, much of the precious natural heritage with which Karachi is blessed is neither protected nor declared a national park. Its resources are plundered with impunity, thanks to commercial logging, land reclamation and illegal wildlife trade that is depleting biodiversity and disrupting forest health.

“The relentless release of untreated raw sewage and industrial waste has wreaked havoc on the mudflats, with toxins accumulating up the food chain from the fish and the mud crabs to us humans.

“Our own survival as a species depends on the existence of healthy ecosystems around us. Mangroves are nurseries for fish and shrimp, as well as a barrier against storms and cyclones. Scientists have warned us for decades about rising global sea levels and their impact on coastal cities such as Karachi.”

She stresses that in this day and age, instead of dealing with the ongoing climate crisis, it is madness to dream of building new cities on highly vulnerable mudflat islands, further endangering them in the name of progress.

“As it is, Karachi’s coast has over the years lost much of its once extensive mangrove forest to urban development. Whatever is left of it is a haven for marine biodiversity and the fisherfolk community, the city’s original coastal inhabitants.”

She points out that a nature-led process of ecosystem restoration is the need of the hour in order to protect the wetland creeks from further wanton destruction. “In time the forest will regenerate, creating a wilder Karachi and benefitting the health and well-being of future generations of residents.”