KARACHI - The Coastal-line of Sindh is suffering from environmental threats as thousands of tons of mangroves have been cut within only few weeks in several parts of Hawks Bay while the land grabbers have occupied large tracts of land particularly on Sandspit Road, Fisheries Goth, Yoususabad and other parts of the coastline in the metropolis, The Nation learnt in a survey conducted on Monday. The survey revealed that mafias have occupied major parts of land in the coastal belt. In connivance with the government and authorities concerned, the land grabbers managed to continue their illegal activities in Hawks Bay and cut down mangroves. Despite receiving huge funds from foreign donor agencies to save the mangroves, local NGOs have failed to protect these natural assets. Similarly, the government agencies have not taken any initiative in this regard. Similar situation has also been observed in various parts of coastal belt in Sindh and Balochistan. During the survey, several residents told the land mafias have been operating here without any restriction from the police and other concerned departments. They further revealed that at first the land grabbers occupy the land then legalise it with the help of high officials of concerned departments.         Pakistan is heavily dependent on these mangrove forests to maintain the ecological balance. For example, the mangrove leaf litter provides a major source of nutrients. The mangroves provide a diverse habitat for a complex and interdependent community of invertebrates, fish, birds, and reptiles; and the primary productivity of these mangrove-covered deltaic areas are four to seven times those of coastal areas without mangroves. A global concern is that the South Asian waterfowl seek food and shelter in these estuaries and mangroves.  In addition, most of the tropical marine such as the commercially important shrimp species seek shelter in the mangroves for one stage of their life cycles. The shipping industry, through its discharges, water pollution, and possible leakages and spills, impacts on this environment. Mangroves are inter-tidal forests with great economic and ecological significance. The mangrove conservation efforts in Karachi provide another illustration of sustainable community development. Mangroves represent a unique type of ecosystem mostly found in salty habitats. Hundred of thousands people in Karachi depend on the mangroves for their livelihood. For villages surrounding the forests, the mangroves provide food, fodder and fuel-wood. Mangrove forests also provide protection to the coastal areas from strong winds and ocean currents. Their vegetation also helps in reducing coastline erosion because the roots collect sediments that flow into the sea from the river. Over the past several years, the degradation of Pakistan's mangroves has occurred at the rate of 6 per cent per annum. As a result, only 16 per cent of Pakistan's mangroves are thought to be healthy. The most harmful environmental stress that the mangroves face today derives largely from human activity. The steady growth of a major industrial city within the vicinity, the untreated sewage and industrial discharge, the increase in the demand for fuel wood, overgrazing and over-exploitation of resources are just a few of the strains on the mangrove's ecosystem. The reduction of incoming freshwater flows also threatens the survival of the mangrove ecosystem. Recently, The World Bank proposed that the mangrove area become a national park, and a foreigner NGO asked that the area be designated a biosphere reserve. The biosphere reserve may serve to protect and contribute to the conservation of the area as well as foster economic and human development, enabling the communities to manage the natural resources themselves and ensure sustainability. Because of the high dependence of villagers on the mangrove resources, these proposals do not seem very practical to many. Presently, there are three government bodies - the Sindh Forest Department, the Port Qasim Authority and the Board of Revenue - that control and manage different areas of the mangroves.