Karachi, April 19 (Express Tribune): The Sindh Forest Department in Pakistan successfully broke its earlier Guinness World Record of planting the most trees in 24 hours by planting 1,129,294 mangroves on an island near Keti Bunder in Thatta district of Sindh..
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah separately planted saplings on the island to launch the plantation drive.
Bilawal, Murad, Parliamentary Minister Nisar Khuhro, Transport Minister Nasir Hussain Shah and MPA Ghulam Qadir Malkani were taken to the island where the drive was launched.
The department held the previous record of planting the most trees in 24 hours and was attempting to break its own cord. The earlier record was set in 2013 by planting 847,275 trees in Kharo Chaan, Thatta.
As per the standard fixed guidelines mandated from the Guinness World Record authorities, the record has to be set in a 24-hour period by 300 planters during daylight hours.
Briefing Bilawal, Forest Secretary Sohail Akbar Shah said since they were attempting the record in estuarine intertidal mudflats, the availability of maximum time was critical.
After using the navy’s tidal data, they selected April 19 as the most suitable day on which the maximum amount of daylight, 12.5 hours, could be availed. He informed Bilawal that the attempt was made from 6:30am till 7pm.
Murad said the purpose of their attempt is to highlight and showcase the importance of Indus delta mangroves, its affiliated biodiversity and most importantly the communities dependent on this precious but threatened ecosystem.
“Our experience of setting the Guinness World Record in 2009 and 2013 has brought the coastal areas into the limelight and socio-developmental activities are on the rise in these areas,” he explained.
The CM said that the current attempt is being financed by the Sindh government with logistical and material support provided by the Pakistan Navy.
“We expect support and active participation from the media, civil society, local representatives and a large number of members of the community in this important national event,” he said.
Due to lack of care, deforestation and a decrease in the flow of freshwater into the sea, the mangroves situated on Sindh’s coastal line are in danger, as the number of forests is gradually diminishing.
Mangroves are various species of trees and shrubs that grow in coastal swamps and form dense groves. Although mangroves thrive in saline water, they require inflow of fresh water through rivers for nourishment.
Mangroves provide food for fish and other marine animals and, hence, are a natural habitat for a variety of sea species. Around 90% of seafood caught in Sindh feed on mangroves or creatures that live in mangroves. Therefore, conservation of these forests is necessary for sustainable fisheries. A healthy mangrove forest on one hectare of land can provide up to 100 kilogrammes of fish, 25kg of prawns and 15kg of crab meat annually.
The people residing along coastline, these forests offer fuel and animal feed.
Besides being fodder and a habitat for land and marine animals, mangroves also provide great utility in protecting and preserving the environment. On average, mangroves absorb 18% more carbon dioxide than other plants. Moreover, they help against erosion and save the land from sea torrents and floods. These forests help save millions of funds by maintaining the terrain of the coast and ports.
Mangroves in Sindh
Pakistan’s coastline is approximately 1,000 kilometres long of which Sindh’s share is around 350km. The provincial coastline comprises 17 large creeks and swamp areas and numerous small ones where mangrove forests thrive.
Mangroves cover an area around 600,000 hectares in Sindh, of which 280,470 hectares are owned by the provincial forest department. These forests consist of four mangrove species which include Avicennia marina, Rhizopora mucronata, Ceriops tagal and Aegiceras corniculatum. The most abundant species is Avicennia marina which constitutes up to 90% of the total mangrove population in the province.
In recent years, mangroves have been adversely affected due to sea intrusion, as supply of fresh water to the delta of the Indus River has been decreasing. The area around the delta has become saline and mangroves, which need some freshwater supply, are not prospering due to this.
The decrease in mangroves has also resulted in a decrease in marine life near the delta. Resultantly, fishermen have started migrating from these areas due to lack of resources in the water.
Mangrove forests are also present in some coastal areas of Karachi. However, they are gradually decreasing due to water pollution and deforestation for the construction of buildings near the coast.
Commenting on the issue, Forest Department Mangroves Conservator Agha Tahir Hussain said the department has been working for the conservation of mangroves, adding that currently the department is also engaging people living along the coast for the purpose. Fifty households are being paid for the conservation of mangroves, the officer said.
Hussain said that an endowment fund for the conservation of mangroves will soon be set up. The government is also trying to sign global treaties in this regard, he added.