A sight of Sindh’s coast has the tendency to inspire the human spirit, with its abundant mangroves, sprouting out from the Indus delta, a magical juncture of river and sea, where birds unwind comfortably sitting on mangrove trees and fish swim five feet beneath them. It is a place of grand beauty and its mysticism is only exceeded by its aesthetics. For many living species, including humans, these forests provide a home and a source of sustenance, and are integral to the survival of biodiversity and communities which have existed here for a long time.
These forests, unfortunately, are on the brink of extinction, and so is the habitat upon which many species depend. Receding of Sindh’s mangrove forests is a direct consequence of withholding water supply by dams which has changed the salinity levels within the mangrove-covered region. Now, human-induced climate change has also become a leading cause of the onslaught against mangrove forests, and the communities and species which depend on it.
To add to their plight, changing climatic conditions are increasing the sea level, due to which the salinity of the Indus delta, which was already under stress from the breakdown of the water flow, is dramatically increasing. These forests, in areas including Keti Bunder, are unable to adapt to the pace of changing water salinity and have been condemned to be wiped off the map.
Communities residing and depending on these forests are the worst affected human groups. Due to depleting forests, marine life has suffered, as have the fishing communities which were once self-sufficient and that used the mangroves for sustenance. Desertification of the mangrove-covered areas has left communities in areas such as Keti Bunder not only without the means of employment and earnings, it has also exposed them to regular calamities which were once mitigated by the presence of mangrove forests.
It has also made such cataclysmic events more probable and their impact difficult to predict and cope with. Due to constant flooding and changing oceanic patterns, these communities increasingly need external aid to sustain themselves. If adequate steps to replant mangroves on a more fertile area are not taken, these communities may have to consider moving away from their ancestral homes. —M.I.