KARACHI - Despite their tall claims, the concerned ministry and the law enforcers have completely failed to stop mafia from cutting mangroves in costal belt of the metropolis, sources confided to The Nation on Friday. Influential land grabbers have eliminated thousands of tons of mangroves within a month in coastal areas including Hawks Bay. They are also active in encroaching large tracts of lands at Sandspit Road, Fisheries Goth, Younusabad, Kakka Village and other parts of the coastline while concerned authorities did not bother to take any action against the culprits. Talking to news, local residents said that influential people used to dump industrial waste into water to develop plots and that several housing schemes had been launched through such tactics. A social activist in the area, Ali Akbar Shah, said that authorities concerned doing nothing to save the decades-old villages and deprived the local citizens of basic facilities such as drinking water, health and education while at the same times they were supporting illegal schemes in the area. Local people, NGOs and different political parties have complained umpteen times the lack of basic facilities in the area and activities of the mafias and land grabbers but their clamour always fell on deaf ears. Despite receiving huge funds from foreign donor agencies to save the mangroves, the NGOs operating in the country have failed to secure them. Similarly, the government agencies have also not taken any initiative in this regard. Pakistan is heavily dependent on these mangrove forests to maintain the ecological balance. Moreover, the mangrove leaf litter provides major source of nutrients besides maintaining a diverse habitat for rare species of invertebrates, fish, birds, and reptiles. The primary productivity of these mangrove-covered deltaic areas are four to seven times more than those of coastal areas without such forests. According to sources, the South Asian waterfowl seeks food and shelter in these estuaries and mangroves. Additionally, most of the tropical marine, such as the commercially important shrimp species, seek shelter in the mangroves during various stages of their life cycles. The shipping industry also affects this environment through its discharges, water pollution and possible leakages and spills. Mangroves are inter-tidal forests with great economic and ecological significance. The mangrove conservation efforts in Karachi provide another illustration of sustainable community development. Hundred of thousands people in Karachi depend on the mangroves for their livelihood. For villages surrounding the forests, the mangroves provide food, fodder and firewood. They also provide protection to the coastal areas from strong winds and ocean currents. Besides, their vegetation helps in reducing coastline erosion because the roots collect sediments that flow into sea from the river. Over the past several years, the degradation of Pakistans mangroves has occurred at the rate of 6 per cent per annum. As a result, only 16 per cent of these forests exist today. The most harmful environmental stress that the mangroves face presently derives largely from human activity. The steady growth of a major industrial city within in its vicinity, the untreated sewage and industrial discharge, the increase in the demand for firewood, overgrazing and over-exploitation of resources are just a few of the strains on the mangroves ecosystem. The reduction of incoming freshwater flows also threatens the ecosystem. Earlier, the World Bank proposed to declare mangrove area a national park and a foreigner NGO demanded it to be designated a biosphere reserve so that it could help protect and contribute to the conservation of the area as well as foster economic and human development, enabling the communities to manage natural resources themselves and ensure sustainability. Owing to the high dependence of villagers on the mangrove resources, these proposals do not seem very practical to many. Presently, there are three governmental bodies, namely, the Sindh Forest Department, the Port Qasim Authority and the Board of Revenue, which control and manage different areas of the mangroves.