PFF finds chopping of mangroves forests along the city coast

Karachi: Despite tall claims by the Sindh government of protecting mangroves forests along the Karachi coast people associated with land and timber mafia are violating the order.

Criminals have started cleaning trees from inside the forests, which the government officials and inspection teams cannot see.

After receiving information, a team of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) with media persons visited the affected area and found the mangroves cutting in wide area that the people of Karachi cannot imagine how they are being put vulnerable to face impacts of tsunamis, cyclones and sea storms, which are said to be the common phenomenon in the coastal countries.

“We show the media persons how more than dozen of people cutting trees from the place, which local people call Keenjhar forest near Dingi and Bhundar islands,” responds Sami Memon, a spokesman for PFF, who was leading the team.

“When we asked, the obviously frightened persons said as if they are hired by timber mafia people, who are patronizing a large number of poor workers to clean the forest from different areas,” he said.

It all is happening with the support of local forest officials, as the criminals exposed they are doing this for long. They cut trees, keep the same drying for a few days at the site and then load boats to bring on the beach side, where from it is being shifted to the warehouses.
The other members of PFF team include Ayoub Shan, Kamal Shah, Talib Kachhi and Sabir Jarwar, who briefed the visiting media persons about the status of mangroves, visible threats and the community demands.

They said there are lush green forests near Ibrahim Hydri, Rehri in bin Qasim Town and island villages like Baba, Bhit, Shamspir and Kakapir villages, which are under threats to be cleaned by certain mafias.

It is organized crime that the government officials and those nature conservationists, working to rehabilitate the mangroves forests cannot stop the powerful people.

PFF statement issued on Wednesday said the provincial chief conservator forest with other officials, addressing a press conference two day earlier, claimed that they are going to launch a day-long campaign to plant maximum number of mangroves plants near Kharo Chhan with the support of Asian Development Bank (ADB). In fact it is appreciable move for rehabilitation of mangroves forests, the officials concerned should take strict actions against those officials, who are bringing bad name to the department itself through supporting timber mafia.

There are government and private organizations, engaged in rehabilitation of mangroves along the country coast, especially near Karachi, but the land mafia and timber tycoons are seen more powerful than the government officials. That is why despite hue and cry by the citizens to protect mangroves, nobody from the government is taking responsibility to avoid this conspiracy against the citizens.

The government figures show that existing mangroves forests cover 105000 hectares area in provincial coast.

Giving historical status of Indus Delta, Sami Memon said it was declared seventh largest delta around the world. But gradually due to indifferent policies the lush green forests reduced to 60000 hectares 15 years back. After that, the government’s forest department, WWF-Pakistan, IUCN with the participation of local communities planted more trees to rehabilitate it. Not only this, they have restricted community to be guard to protect the natural resources for their future generations.

Despite this initiative timber mafia in Karachi city is quite active to destroy the forests and nobody dares to take action against them. PFF in its statement said life of many of its activists, struggling locally to protect mangroves, are at stake at the hands of criminals. In this regard, PFF’s two daring activists belonging to Kakapir Village in Keamari had lost their lives in 2011 while they launched campaign to stop cutting of the mangroves trees. The criminals are still at large, because they are enjoying backing of politically influential persons.

PFF demands the Sindh government to stop mangroves cleaning, as they are natural nurseries and breeding grounds for shrimps and other commercial fish species. Above all, the statement said it is the natural shield to avoid the disaster in the sea, as the city itself is declared prone to disaster.