THATTA -- The Sindh government is carrying out a campaign to plant mangrove trees along Pakistan's coast to protect the marine ecology and coastline and to improve local economies.
The Pakistani navy May 3 inaugurated the Mangroves Plantation Campaign 2018, which aims to plant about two million mangroves in the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan over the course of the year, Geo TV reported.
Since 2016, the navy has planted more than two million mangroves along the coast from Shah Bandar to Jiwani, Chief of the Naval Staff Adm. Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said at the inaugural ceremony in Shah Bandar.
Breaking records, raising awareness
The navy's latest campaign comes after a record-breaking mangrove planting effort last month on an island near the port of Keti Bandar, Thatta District.
The Sindh Forest Department planted 1,129,294 mangroves from 6.30am to 7.00pm (12.5 hours) April 19, breaking its own previous Guinness World Record of planting 847,275 trees in Kharo Chaan, Thatta District, in June 2013, according to The Express Tribune.
Guinness World Records had requirements for such an effort: the number of planters could not exceed 300, and they had to complete their work during daylight within a 24-hour span, according to the Forest Department.
"The Sindh government is committed to increasing the area of mangroves," said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah while kicking off the mangrove planting effort in April.
"Mangrove forests are important as they protect the coastal belt from sea intrusion and also support the economy for local communities, stop soil erosion and protect the shoreline," he said.
The effort was financed by the Sindh government, with the Pakistani navy providing logistical and material support.
"The activity was aimed at conserving ecologically significant plants that serve as a breeding ground for different marine species and lessen the effect of sea hurricanes," Sindh Forest Secretary Sohail Akbar Shah told Pakistan Forward.
"Setting the Guinness World Records in 2009 and 2013 has brought the coastal areas into the limelight, and socio-developmental activities are on the rise in these areas," he said.
"We intend to raise awareness among the public so that it knows how crucial these plants are for the environment," he said.
Restoring mangrove forests
The Indus River Delta -- where 97% of Pakistan's mangroves stand -- used to be home to thick mangrove forests, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In the 1930s, mangrove forests spread over 600,000 hectares in Pakistan, research by the IUCN shows. By 2005, however, water shortages had reduced the area to 96,000 hectares.
"Mangrove forests in Pakistan are under serious threat due to a variety of factors that directly or indirectly influence them," Babar Khan, regional head (Sindh and Balochistan) for the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan told Pakistan Forward.
"These factors exposed this complex ecosystem to severe environmental and socio-economic stresses in the form of loss of habitat and biodiversity, decline in fish productivity, and social problems for coastal communities," he said.