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Degraded ecosystem: Mangrove planting

June 24, 2013

PAKISTANIS have set world records in some rather odd events. For instance, last year, Guinness World Records recognised their feat in fast chappati-making and the swiftness shown by a young girl in setting up a chessboard in 15 seconds flat. But Saturday’s ADB-sponsored feat could well see recognition by Guinness of a far worthier cause: the planting of more than 750,000 mangrove saplings in the deltaic region of Thatta district. Mangroves, an integral part of our ecosystem, are being destroyed in their millions. However, even this Herculean effort to resurrect a dying natural heritage leaves many questions unanswered. For instance, what happened to the last record-setting batch of over 540,000 mangrove saplings planted in Keti Bander in 2009? Most of them are believed not to have survived. We must also ask how scientific the present exercise was and how much thought went into factors like high tide, soil quality, etc. It was a mammoth effort and one hopes that it will bear fruit. It would be a pity if all the enthusiasm and hard work went to waste, even if doubts linger about what measures will now be taken to conserve the new mangroves.

Unfortunately, the spirit behind the mangrove-planting exercise is not evident in Karachi where land grabbers and developers go unchallenged as they lay to waste vast swathes of one of nature’s most protective hatcheries for marine life, specifically crustaceans and small fish. The benefits of mangroves are well known: they are natural wind barriers and useful air filters given the level of pollution in urban areas, and they guard against tsunamis and floods. Not least, they are also a crucial source of livelihood for our coastal community. For these reasons alone, concern for the environment has to be shown at the highest level of policymaking.