KARACHI - Experts on Thursday underlined the importance of combined efforts to protect Mangrove forests of Indus delta.

They said that Mangrove forests, on the Pakistani coastal line, acted as a protection wall against Tsunami or cyclones.

Mangrove forest is one of the most important factors that keep the coasts safe from sea water.

They added that during the last few years, two million mangrove samplings had been planted along the Pakistani coasts. Pakistan owns one of the largest mangroves forests in the world, they informed.

Country Representative IUCN Pakistan Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, National Coordinator Mangroves for the Future Programme (MFF) Pakistan Ghulam Qadir Shah, Director International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi (UoK) Professor Dr M Iqbal Choudhary, Dr Naeem Shahzad of NUST, and Amjad Siddiqui delivered lectures at the one-day workshop entitled, “Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Integrated Coastal Zone Management,” held here at the Professor Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Auditorium, ICCBS on Thursday. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that the country could witness a positive change only “If we start working together.”

He further said that only Pakistan Navy had planted one million mangrove saplings along the coast of Sindh and Balochistan in six months, which was really a good sign for the ecosystem. He pointed out that the role of mangroves in the protection of coasts against tsunami, cyclones, floods and soil erosion could not be underestimated.

He also highlighted the initiatives of IUCN for protecting the ecosystems from the coast to mountains in Pakistan. 

Giving a brief presentation on the importance of mangrove forests, Ghulam Qadir Shah stated that around 90 countries in the world had these forests, which covered an area of 47.80 million hectors. He said, “In Pakistan, 97 percent mangroves are found in Indus Delta – Sindh province, while the remaining are in Balochistan province in small patches at three locations.”

“Globally, there are 67 species of mangroves, while Pakistani forests are comprised of only four species,” he said, and added that in 1960s Pakistan had eight species.”

He further said that 60 to 75 percent of the coastline of the earth’s tropical regions was lined with mangroves.

He informed that 69 true mangroves species of trees and shrubs and 20 associated species had been reported so far.

“Mangrove ecosystem supports more than 2000 species of fish, invertebrates and epiphytes,” he added.

“In 2010, the Sindh government had issued a notification, declaring all mangroves as “protected forests” under the Forestry Act 1927, meaning that clearance, harvesting, and animal grazing in these forests is prohibited; however, the reality is different,” he pointed out.

Professor Dr M Iqbal Choudhary said that Pakistan Indus Delta mangroves were perhaps unique in the sense that these are the largest arid climate mangroves in the world.

He said that mangroves acted as a barricade for the protection of coastal regions against the disastrous natural phenomenon such as cyclones, windstorms, flooding and soil erosion. “We had lost 78,000 of our people in a major earthquake that hit the country in 2005,” he said, and added this had happened because we were not ready to face any kind of disaster, and unfortunately we are still not prepared.

Amjad Siddiqui played an MMF documentary film to make the participants aware about mangrove forests. In the end, Dr Naeem Shahzad delivered a presentation on ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction.