Coastal communities assured of protecting mangroves forests, uplift schemes

KARACHI: Commissioner Karachi Division Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui assured the coastal community people of resolving their issues, including protecting mangroves forests and launching development schemes.

He was speaking as a chief guest at a consultation meeting on ‘Protection and conservation of mangroves, organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) at a local hotel on Wednesday.

The commissioner told the audience that tree cutting is a crime as per the law. He urged the community and officials to play their role and point out if there is any violation and save the assets of the city.

He appreciated the role of PFF as saying it was working on nature conservation, but irony was that certain elements could not understand the community’s agenda of protecting natural assets and put them in isolation. That is why they lost their trust from the government officials.

Three deputy commissioners of Karachi and representatives of different government and private organizations participated in the meeting that include Mohammed Moizam of WWF Pakistan, DC Korangi Zubair Channa, Agha Tahir, Conservator Sindh Forest Department, Ghulam Mujtaba Wadhar, Additional Secretary Sindh Inland Fisheries, Akhtar Javed of Port Qasim Authority, Pakistan Coastguard Lt Munawar Hussain, Deputy Commissioner Karachi South Mustafa Jamal Kazi, PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Kazi Athar Advocate and Mustafa Gurgaiz.

The meeting also attracted KPT Marine Pollution Control Department officials, community people and civil society of Karachi and other coastal areas.

The commissioner said presently the government had launched a drive to plant 300000 tree saplings in the city neighborhoods and started the move from a fishing locality of Mubarak village. This shows the government wants to take care of the suburban people.

He said livestock is better alternate source of income and they need guidance. He also directed deputy commissioners to respond positively to the complaints of community, specially coastal area people.

He asked the community should not be disheartened if somebody ignores the community and take such officials and get them realized about their responsibility, as it is peoples right as conscious citizens.

He said Karachi was the name of a fishermen locality, but after development the community people have been marginalized in terms of development.

Agha Tahir, conservator Sindh Forest Department said they are working on database of mangroves species and plant annually 10000 hectares, which is enough contribution. He said the forest department leased forest land to Port Qasim Authority on the condition of preserving mangroves. But at some places mangroves forests have been cleaned and authorities have cleaned tree cover for commercial purposes.

He claims that IUCN and other international institutions verify the work in which they are planting 10,000 hectares of mangroves forests.

PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said the people in suburbs of Karachi belong to the communities which have sacrificed and migrated to other places in the name of development. But in return the government has nothing to accommodate these people.

He said mangroves forests are being cleaned largely without any check. The community volunteers have caught truck loaded with mangroves wood and the practice is going on. Police officials are reluctant to control this and even they are reluctant to lodge cases against certain elements, who are supporting criminals. He said there are no rules to protect mangroves.

He shared the results of meetings with Sindh chief minister, fisheries ministers and legislators at different times but it seems all efforts went in vain, as nobody has taken action to stop mangroves cutting.

Deputy Commissioner Karachi South Mustafa Jamal Kazi pointed out that PFF should take initiative in right directions and convey their complaints properly. He said laws exist for protection of these assets but we are careless in studying the laws and understand the right ways to lodge complaints.

He said DCs have authority to take action against encroachment of any kind. He said when the action is taken to remove encroachments the government officials face resistance. But hard work and political will leads to the achievements. He said forest department officials can play their role in case of mangroves protection.

In the starting, PFF senior manager Mustafa Gurgaiz shared figures of mangroves destruction through reclamation of forest land and using the same for commercial purposes. He quoted the previous record of mangroves and said there was 604870 hectares of mangroves forest cover in 1932 and then in 1984 the forest shrunk to 480,000 hectares and then in 2005 it was recorded only 86000 hectares.

He linked the mangroves forests to the commercial fish breeding and providing source of living to two million fishermen communities, depending directly on the fishing.

He said there are 895 villages along the 350-km long provincial coastline, including 129-km long Karachi coast, where mangroves forests are declining, putting the people vulnerable, because of fears of disasters.

He said Port Qasim Authority in the area has launched Coal-fired power plant, coal jetty and ship channel by cleaning mangroves forests from 200 acres area.

Mohammed Moizam of WWF said there is need of protecting remaining mangroves forests. In his understanding those struggling for protection of mangroves should be rationale when planning to plant mangroves forests at mudflats. He said all plain areas or mudflat itself has protective status as per marine ecology rule, hence, we should avoid planting mangroves without planning. He pointed out that mudflats are being destroyed in the name of mangroves plantation.

The speakers pointed out that mangroves contribute directly to the livelihoods of the million of fishers at the coastal area of the country by providing wood and non- wood forest products and spawning grounds and nutrients for fish, shrimps, turtle and shellfish. Mangroves are the natural safeguards which help protect the coastal villages from tidal waves during monsoon, also provide shelter in high winds during fishing. Mangrove has a multi importance and life supporting benefits more than any other tree for the ecosystem and the fisheries.

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