KARACHI: Sharing his observations and documentary evidence and highlighting threats to mangroves lying off the city’s coast, particularly those existing in and around Bundal Island and Khiprianwala Island, noted architect Tariq Alexander Qaiser on Tuesday made a passionate call for their protection, urging the government to declare Bundal as a marine protected area.
Illegal cutting of forests on Bundal Island, he pointed out, had increased dramatically over the past few months to an extent that it had disturbed the island’s ecology.
This emerged during a webinar titled ‘Karachi’s Hidden Forest on the Edge of Delta’, organised by Aga Khan University’s Sixth Sense Forum.
“The island of Bundal is extremely important as it has dense forests. In recent winter, we found the whole island resounding with the noise of chainsaws, scaring migratory birds away. It needs to stop,” said Mr Qaiser, also an avid photographer, writer and nature conservationist.
He acknowledged, though, locals had been using mangrove wood for a long time in a sustainable manner and there had been times when tree cutting either increased or slowed down. But, now there was too much pressure on the forests as the wood was apparently being used for industrial purposes.
The ecology of the island is being disturbed because of alarming increase in forest cutting
He emphasised that the city of Karachi needed green spaces like these islands located off the city’s coast that should be preserved to act as carbon sinks.
“If we are to live in this city with a certain quality of life and breathability of life then these are the very places [we should invest in for ourselves and future generations],” he noted.
The topography of Bundal Island, he observed, was such that it could be used to create a very vibrant and large mangrove forest.
“I feel so strongly that we have an opportunity to make a difference. If there is a will within the establishment and government, we can create a green, ecologically friendly place. It’s an opportunity that needs to be grabbed,” he said.
Tale of abuse
Earlier, the programme started off with the introduction of the guest by Kulsoom Ghais and Sami Sadrudin, representing the AKU’s organising committee.
Mr Qaiser has authored two books, Baltistan — Apricot Bloom and Sumandar Par, both a beautiful compilation of poetry, photographs and essays.
He, the audience was told, is currently working on a four-volume book and documentary on the ecology of Karachi’s forests titled Karachi-Korangi Creeks — Edge of Delta.
It’s about the beauty, quantum and density of Karachi’s mangrove forests, their amazing ecosystems and the author’s experiences and interactions with the locals who come to work on these uninhabited islands.
Sharing how he developed an interest in exploring mangroves, Mr Qaiser said his focus turned to the forests when his ‘fishing career’ sort of ended due to a steep decline in the fish stocks in early 2000. This was the time when the government allowed foreign trawlers to sail in its waters that caused enormous loss to marine ecology.
Over the years, Mr Qaiser documented how mangroves and their associated biodiversity was being lost and felt that this issue must be raised and discussed at all forums.
“These ecosystems are incredibly vibrant and have adapted to live with the abuse that we give. The stories of their decay need to be told and discussed,” he said, calling for stronger advocacy for their protection.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021