KARACHI, April 25: Speakers at a meeting of national coordination body of the Mangroves for Future (MFF) programme on Thursday called for protection and conservation of mangrove forests which, they said, played a vital role in not only protecting coastline from soil erosion but also shielded coastal communities from cyclones and tsunamis.

They said the mangroves acted as nurseries to various commercially important marine creatures which formed a substantial portion of the earnings of coastal communities. The mangroves also consumed huge amounts of carbon dioxide and played an important role in keeping environment healthy, they said.

They were speaking at the inaugural session of the MFF meeting organised by the IUCN, which handed over on the occasion 13 letters of grants totalling $310,000 to a number of organisations to help them plant mangroves and could carry out other related activities.

IUCN’s Regional MFF coordinator Steen Christensen said the MFF programme aimed at promoting healthy coastal ecosystems through a partnership-based, people-focused, policy relevant and investment-oriented approach, which built and applied knowledge, empowered communities and other stakeholders, enhanced governance, secured livelihoods and increased resilience to natural hazards and climate change.

He said that MFF was a regional initiative which came about after the 2004 tsunami that left many countries vulnerable to rapid depletion of coastal resources. Initially, it focused on the countries that were the worst affected by the tsunami – India, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Thailand but later it expanded it to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Federal Climate Change Ministry secretary Mohammad Ali Gardezi said the ministry was working with provincial governments to implement a UN collaborative programme – reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) -- which provided tools and opportunities for carbon trading and earning foreign exchange.

He said that Pakistan’s latest brush with severe climatic changes had forced experts and government to rethink and realign their strategies along the lines of nature-based solutions using ridge-to-reef management approach.

IUCN’s Pakistan chief Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said the cost of dealing with climate-triggered impacts was going up and according to assessments could be between $6 billion and $14 billion a year for Pakistan. Already the climate-triggered disasters had cost the country around $10 billion in 2010, making it one of the most severely hit countries in the world, he said.

Referring to the mangroves plantation programmes and grants, he said the government had also stepped in to initiate a large scale mangrove restoration programme in the Indus Delta where 100,000 hectares had been earmarked for new plantations in collaboration with the IUCN.

He said the first cycle of nine small grants projects totalling $63,000 relating to conservation of mangroves and awareness was implemented during 2011 and 2012, while under the current second and third cycle 10 small grants amounting to $110,000 were being awarded to the government as well as non-governmental organisations of Sindh and Balochistan. About $200,000 was being awarded to an NGO, WWF Pakistan, Sindh livestock and fisheries department and Pakistan Navy, he said.

In December 2006, President Bill Clinton planted the first mangrove tree to launch the MFF initiative at a fishing village on Phuket island in Thailand. At the launch of the tsunami legacy report 2009 in the United Nations in New York in April 2009 Mr Clinton said that MFF had been one of the most positive and forward looking developments since tsunami. Sindh caretaker chief minister Justice (retired) Zahid Kurban Alavi said that regional initiatives like MFF were a step in the right direction since the programme played role of a catalyst in promoting regional approach for solutions to many of the common environmental and socio-economic issues.

Later, the chief minister distributed the grant letters among recipients.


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