KARACHI - The speakers at a conference underlined the need to educate more people about significance of mangroves and launched a camping to approach one million people for mangroves conservation.

The conference was organised by the Human Resource Development Network (HRDN) in collaboration with Mangroves for the Future (MFF), a regional initiative promoting investments in the coastal ecosystems, at a local hotel here on Thursday.

Syed Ghulam Qadir Shah, natural resource manager at the IUCN, presented the causes and effects of the degradation of the coastal ecosystem. He gave example that at one time there were eight species of mangroves but now there are only four. He also elaborated the loss to the GDP through health costs as well as loss of marine resources.

Sindh Forest Department Forests Conservator Riaz Waggan gave an overview of the mangroves along the Sindh and Balochistan coast, and how the area of mangroves has been reduced over the years.

Tahir Javed, SVP CSR programme at Engro Foundation, spoke about the importance of doing business responsibly, because corporate bodies cannot afford reputation loss or legal and punitive action.

The Coordinator Mangroves for the Future programme, Dr Steen Christensen, who was in Pakistan especially in connection to raise awareness about the mangroves, presented regional overview of how the importance of the mangroves was realised in the aftermath of the 2003 tsunami. He gave examples of other parts of South East Asia where livelihood of substitution had been promoted to rehabilitate the ecosystems.

IUCN Global Vice President Javed Jabbar spoke about the importance of awareness raising about the mangroves at all levels, from school children to the industrial sector. He urged upon the media on projecting the environmental agenda by shifting focus away from the politics and on to the issues that impact our lives and future.

He laid emphasis on the importance of all stakeholders, local, national, regional as well as global into policy formulation. NDMA Chairman Dr Zafar Iqbal Qadir spoke about the role of mangroves in disaster risk reduction in the face of natural disasters as well as the source of livelihood for the communities living there.

He stressed on the collection of authentic data about the mangroves. He suggested upon setting up of a centre of excellence at the university dedicated to the socio-economic and ecological aspects of the mangroves.

Syed Mahmood Nasir, inspector general forests, gave a vote of thanks. He stressed upon the need to realise the importance of forests in the lives of human beings.

The programme ended with the announcement of an awareness raising field trip to the mangroves which will take place on March 9 (today).