Depleting mangroves

by  Altaf Hussain Qureshi, Qasimabad, Hyderabad, Sindh

Courtesy: Daily Dawn, 19-5-2009

Unfortunately the government of Sindh, notwithstanding its tall claims of replenishing lost mangroves has failed to even resist temptation of selling land reserved for developing ‘Mangrove forest’ on the sea coast of Karachi.

This fact was disclosed by not less than a person of federal Minster for environment before the media in a conference organized under the auspices of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at Kaka Peru village, in the outskirts of metropolis.

The Minister revealed before the gathering that out of 110000 acres of land reserved for developing mangroves 11000 acres have already been sold by the provincial government to the builders mafia for development various housing schemes. He further required the provincial government to cancel the sale immediately and also stated that looking to the enormity of problem he will raise this question before the federal cabinet.

When the local authorities are asserting to transform the metropolis into modern city, their apathy towards fast vanishing coastal asset at the hands of ravenous builder’s mafia is most astonishing. The unbridled and unchecked depletion of mangroves through cutting and discharge of untreated industrial waste/effluences into sea has played havoc. The sale by government 11000 acres of the land reserved to construction companies has however sealed the fate of for growing fresh mangroves once for all.

The mangroves forests are safety valves for harbor and hatcheries of various marine lives, through export of which country earns billions of rupees. Besides these forests are nature’s purification plants that not only provide oxygen; thereby working as the lungs of the environment but also work as a barricade against the high tides.

The city of Karachi with population of above 10 million is more open to hazards as on the one hand it lies on the coast of Arabian Sea with KANUP located on the shore and on the other it is on the fault line of seismic zone. Many a times in the past tremors were felt especially in 80s and 90s. The alarms for coming cyclones especially after deforestations are sounded with more regularity now. But think of it, God forbids, if alarms are proved reality?

If the metropolis has remained unharmed by the hurricanes and tsunamis it is only because of these coastal forests. However the way seashore has been systematically deprived of this natural cover by the land mafias’ times are very close when the metropolis will be exposed to extremely perilous condition.

Before it is too late the authorities should wake-up from slumber and not only cancel all sales of ‘mangrove reserved land’ immediately but also declare cutting of sea shore trees a heinous crime. Those found indulging into such nefarious activities be dealt with sternly. The industrial zones of Karachi especially Sindh Industrial Trading Estate and Korangi Industrial Trading Estate should be required to establish treatment facilities so that industial waste does not go to the sea untreated.

The Sindh Coastal Development Authority (CDA) an agency established for the development of coastal area of Sindh should also be involved in preparing a long term comprehensive plan so as to replenish the lost mangroves in shortest possible time besides authority should also help play role of vigilante.

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