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Caritas moves to save mangrove forest

Fishermen's leader pessimistic on outcome

Caritas moves to save mangrove forest reporter, Karachi

March 28, 2013

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Caritas Pakistan began a reforestation plan on Wednesday to rejuvenate ailing mangrove forests they say have endangered the fisheries sector and contributed to the disappearance of large swathes of the country’s delta areas.

The campaign focuses in particular on the forests of the Indus delta, the sixth largest in the world, which faces ongoing threats from increased development and a growing population.

To help launch the czampaign, Archbishop Joseph Coutts, chairman of Caritas Pakistan, joined his staff in planting 100 mangrove saplings at China Creek, an inlet near Karachi harbor.

“Climate change is already causing havoc in the country, with floods hitting every year. Our next challenge is to take care of these baby mangrove plants,” he said. 

“Caritas Pakistan staff will continue cooperating with the river-based communities and government officials to preserve the eco-system. We will protest against the cutting down of the floating forest.”

Caritas Pakistan Karachi, which runs several community-based disaster risk management programs for residents of coastal areas, said it plans to plant as many as 120,000 mangrove saplings along more than 1,000 hectares of marsh land, with approval from Sindh province’s Department of Coastal Division of Forests.

Pakistan FisherFolk PFF, an NGO representing tens of thousands of people in the country’s fishing communities, said there are only about 70,000 hectares of mangrove forest left in Pakistan.

“About three decades ago, there were about 260,000 hectares. We appreciate Caritas’ efforts. They are our friends, but the crisis will continue unless the government takes serious steps including the diversion of river water to the delta areas, cracking down on marine pollutants and stopping land grabbers,” said Mohammad Ali Shah, founding chairman of PFF.

“Poor fishing communities are assaulted for raising their voices against illegal degradation of the mangrove forests by land grabbing. Our activists have been abducted and tortured. Two were killed in 2011. The provincial administration has failed to punish perpetrators or protect the aquatic nurseries,” Shah said.

“A high percentage of small fish has already diminished in our seas. We must act more responsibly.”

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