ISLAMABAD, Jan 21: Although mangroves have been declared protected forest and there is a ban on commercial harvesting, their areas in Pakistan were shrinking fast due to various biotic (living organisms) and abiotic (environmental degradation) reasons, the National Assembly was informed on Wednesday.
Responding to questions on measures taken to protect the fast disappearing mangrove forests in the country, Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi said the mangroves were located at four geographic locations along the 1,046km coastline, with the Indus delta constituted 98 per cent of coastal forests of the country.
The mangrove forests in Sindh which have been depleting due to natural causes as well as human exploitation were once the sixth largest mangrove forests out of 92 countries in the world. The mangrove area and cover which was 26,000sq/km has now decreased to 2,600sq/km.
The assembly was informed that the Sindh forest department had administrative control of 280,470 hectares of Indus Delta Mangroves in Sindh, the Board of Revenue controlled 260,000 hectares, Port Qasim Authority 64,400 hectares and Karachi Port Trust 2,547 hectares.
The minister said that the mangroves under the control of Sindh forest department and Port Qasim Authority had been declared as protected forests under the Forest Act 1927.
Mr Afridi said that the forest department was taking steps to ensure proper protection and rehabilitation of the fragile Indus delta mangroves ecosystem.
The department had completed various development initiatives like raising plantations, introducing extinct species, setting up seed orchards and creating awareness, the minister said, adding that a comprehensive plan for surveillance and rehabilitation had been submitted to the government of Sindh.
However, mangroves under the administrative control of Sindh Board of Revenue and Karachi Port Trust have not been assigned a legal protection status.