IUCN Pakistan celebrates the World Wetlands Day

Nazir Siyal

KARACHI: IUCN Pakistan celebrated the World Wetlands Day with the coastal communities along the Karachi coasta in the adjoining areas of the Port Qasim. The theme for the year 2019 is Wetlands and Climate Change. Teachers and students of the coastal community schools participated in large numbers in this activity. The students and teachers planted 300 plants of different tree species on this occasion.

On this occasion Tahir Qureshi, IUCN’s Senior Adviser on Coastal Ecosystems briefed the participants of the benefits of wetlands. He also highlighted the importance of mangroves as a food security providing sources of subsistence and livelihoods for the most vulnerable communities as well as cultural practices and identity.

Mr. Qureshi further added that IUCN has previously collaborated with Engro Elengy to plant 500 hectares of mangroves near the company’s LNG plant at Port Qasim.  He admired that companies like Engro Foundation playing an active role in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.  The current partnership with the Engro Foundation takes this initiative further. The second two-year project with IUCN aims to involve local communities in the conservation and sustainable management of Pakistan’s precious mangrove forests by highlighting their direct link with fish yield.

Mr. Tahir Qureshi, citing examples of previous projects, noted that IUCN’s extensive work along the Sindh coast over the years has helped in preserving neglected ecosystems and native biodiversity, and enhancing coastal sustainability. “IUCN Pakistan has been working in the Port Qasim Area since 1987 focusing on the rehabilitation of degraded mangrove forests through the development of innovative planting and nursery techniques, and the organization has collaborated with a number of partners, notably the Sindh Forest Department, and some prominent NGOs and CBOs in the area.”

In his message on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan, said that there is an urgent need to adopt policies and effectively implement action plans which can help in conserving wetlands.  He reiterated the role of IUCN Pakistan in helping the government in formulating the National Wetlands Policy and Action Plan in 2011. IUCN has also played an active role in designation of 8 new Ramsar sites in Pakistan as well as guidelines for the artificial releases from reservoirs to maintain downstream wetland ecosystem and dependent livelihoods. In 1997, it conducted the environmental assessment of the Haleji Lake.

He noted that climate change has impacted our wetlands thus there is reduction in migratory birds as they do not find friendly habitats. He said that flood management can play a very effective role in revitalizing these neglected wetlands. He stressed on exploring the possibilities of funding from the private sector. Keeping in view the impact of Climate Change on wetlands the resources can also be mobilized through Green Climate Fund (GCF) for the management of the wetlands and protection of the livelihoods of the people living in the spheres of these wetlands.

He appreciated the newly formed water pond close to village Gorrano, in the Thar Coal Operational Area. The ecological uplifting of this artificially created wetland is going to attract more water birds, particularly the wintering migratory waterfowl. This water pond was artificially created with the construction of two earth bunds on 834 acres of interdunal land on both sides. Pumping of subsoil water from a coal mine into the pond was started in April 2017. It is a unique wetland of deep subsoil saline water pumped out in a desert in Pakistan.

He also admired the project by the Pakistan Navy to implement the medium grant project Demonstration of wastewater treatment for reduction of coastal water contamination from Manora Island Karachi funded by Mangroves for the Future Programme. The project has established a constructed wetland system for biological wastewater treatment using aquatic reed plants, and has the capacity to treat 30,000 gallons of wastewater per day. Laboratory analysis has revealed a significant improvement in the quality of the treated wastewater. The Pakistan Navy has replicated the model at its other units within Karachi.

Presently, and in the recent past IUCN Pakistan has completed various projects with different donors and private sector partners for plantation and restoration of mangroves in the vicinity of Karachi city. This mangroves forest is a great source of oxygen for the millions of inhabitants of Karachi city that needs to be preserved and protected at any cost.

Dr. Babar Hussain, Natural Resource Management Coordinator, Sea Intrusion project also spoke on this occasion and encouraged the youth for planting and protecting this precious source of oxygen and sanctuaries of fish, shrimps and crabs.