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Miani Hor
Jellyfish (Catostylus mosaicus) is commercially harvested in Miani Hor.

KARACHI: Calling for steps to implement the international Convention on Biological Diversity, a recent report suggests that Miani Hor, a lagoon known for its rich flora and fauna in Balochistan’s Lasbela district, should be declared Pakistan’s first marine protected area as it faces serious threats.

The report, prepared by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), identifies a number of species of flora and fauna found in Miani Hor and declares it as one of the most dynamic water bodies along the country’s coast.

The lagoon is located about 90 kilometres west of Karachi.

“Miani Hor is the only place along Pakistan’s coast which has dense growth of three mangrove species i.e. Rhizophora mucronata, Avicennia marina and Ceriops tagal. The other coastal areas in Balochistan where mangroves are found are Kalmat Khor and Jiwani,” it says.

The environmental conditions in Miani Hor, the study says, support a diversified marine life which includes flora and fauna found on, in or near the seabed, large pelagic animals, resident and migratory birds as well as marine mammals,” the report says.

According to the report, the area is home to 84 fish species and more than 70 species of avifauna including great white pelican, Dalmatian pelican, greater flamingo, Demoiselle and common cranes, great egret, great black-headed gull, shikra, Egyptian vulture, osprey, peregrine falcon, white-breasted kingfisher and black drongo.

A complete survey of Miani Hor’s flora is underway.

The report provides a complete geographical description of the lagoon; the lagoon is 60km long and between four and six kilometer wide and takes an almost right-angle turn in western direction in front of Bera village which runs parallel to the open coastline.

“Its width varies from 4km to 10km at various places. North eastern part of this arc has dense Rhizophora mangrove whereas southeastern part has Avicenna and Ceripos. A major port on the southern side has sand dunes with little or no vegetation.

“There are patches of mangrove all along the lagoon but not as dense as on the eastern side. The total area of the Miani Hor lagoon is estimated to be about 370 km2. Two rivers, Porali and Windar, discharge in the Miani Hor lagoon. These rivers remain dry for most part of the year and discharge silt laden water during and immediately after torrential rains.”

The lagoon has vast mudflats and sandy shores which provide ideal habitat for a large number of animals and plants. Mangroves, the report says, are no more cut for fuel purposes except in cases of trees which die naturally. The tradition of using mangrove wood in festivals is also dying in coastal villages where mesquite wood (locally known as devi) is mainly used as fuel.

In addition to mangrove, a well diversified salt tolerant flora exists along the high-water mark in the area. Most important among them is Arthocnemum indicum  which is found between mid-high water mark to extreme high water mark and further inland, the report says.

There are three major settlements along the Miani Hor i.e. Sonmiani, Damb Bundar and Bera which are dependent on fisheries resources of this lagoon and adjacent open coastline.

“Increasing population in surrounding settlements and intense fishing are some major threats being faced by this important water body.

And, though coastal communities are, in general, conservationist in their attitude, economic pressure has led to over-exploitation of some resources in the area,” the report points out.

On the rationale behind the recommendation of declaring Miani Hor as a marine protected area, the report says that 193 countries signed the Convention on Biological Diversity that required each country to set up at least 10pc of coastal and marine areas as protected by 2012.

“So far, the total number of marine protected areas in the world is 5,880. Pakistan, however, hasn’t yet declared marine protected area despite being a signatory to the convention. In this context, Miani Hor, which has an important but threatened marine ecosystem, is a good proposition for being declared a marine protected area.”

Awarding a protected status to a specific marine area, according to the report, was a key management strategy to address the many issues affecting coastal ecosystems and resources.

“Marine protected areas could contribute to sustainable development goals by fostering integrated sea and coastal management through inter-related functions and benefits,” it says.