KARACHI: Despite facing multiple threats, the mangrove forest cover in the Indus delta has increased from 86,000 hectares in 2005 to over 130,000 hectares in 2021 as a result of joint efforts of government departments, non-profit organisations and corporations, stated the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) in a statement released on World Mangroves Day on Monday.

According to the organisation, mangrove forests are one of the most productive ecosystems and around 500,000 people directly rely on the mangroves services in the Indus delta.

Decades ago, Pakistan was home to eight species of mangroves which have been reduced to four due to multiple threats including inadequate freshwater flow downstream Kotri Barrage, pollution and climate change.

The rehabilitation of mangroves has improved fish stocks, livelihood of locals

“Despite these challenges, the Sindh forest department, with the support of WWF-Pakistan, International Union of Conservation of Nature and communities, has contributed significantly to improve the mangrove cover in the deltaic region and local mangrove species such as Aegicera corniculatum and Ceriops tagal are being revived,” it said.

Commenting on the occasion, WWF-P director general Hammad Naqi Khan appreciated the efforts of the forest department and other organisations, which helped improve the mangrove cover.

“These forests support a healthy and productive ecosystem that benefits not only people but biodiversity as well. Mangroves are the first line of defence against cyclones, storm surges, tsunamis, and other natural calamities impacting the coast and the deltaic region,” he said.

Need stressed on discharge of water downstream Kotri

He emphasised the need for having sufficient discharge of freshwater downstream Kotri Barrage so that the lost glory of mangroves in the Indus delta could be fully revived.

“With mangrove rehabilitation, fish stocks are reviving, and the livelihood of local people is improving,” he said.

According to the organisation, it initiated a three-year project to enhance the resilience of local communities on climate change and promote sustainable management of mangroves in Indus delta with the financial support of the German federal ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) and WWF-Germany.

Through this project, more than 3,000 hectares of mangroves have been restored and over the last decade or so, nearly 14,000 hectares have been rehabilitated through various projects.

Moreover, local women have been engaged in plantation and have set up mangrove nurseries, which provide alternative income generation opportunities to them.

“Pressure on the mangroves due to exploitative activities by humans can have negative impacts on mangrove forests, particularly the disappearance of mangrove species and the degradation of their habitat. The WWF-Pakistan appeals to the public to help revive the Indus delta’s natural landscape and protect these mangroves biomes,” it said.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021

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