March 11, 2020
I was invited by the British Council on a documentary on the ‘Mangroves of Sindh’, directed by Anam Abbas & sponsored by the Dawood Foundation- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE5V221BvUg, alongwith a group of school children.
One of the greatest advantages of the Mangrove ecosystem are their intricate roots- they slow water flow thus protecting shorelines during storms by absorbing & reducing wave energy and water velocity respectively.
Besides being a habitat for birds and sealife, mangroves act as a natural barrier for land erosion due to currents and wave velocities.
Unfortunately, villagers in Pakistan cut down these life-saving trees for the wood and their rich, mineral-based leaves, as a fuel source and income.
‘Mangroves of Sindh’ identifies a practical SOLUTION – create cheap, alternate fuel sources for villagers.
To change any ‘evil’, one must change the system from its roots. While the subsequent discussions asked school children to consider careers in the Civil Services, my thoughts are we should go even further back- to the school level. You cannot change a system if people don’t identify the threat of devastation, which can more effectively be taught from primary levels.
Malaysia uses the Mangroves forests as an eco-tourist platform, especially during monsoon seasons. My family took a “mangrove tour” over a decade ago- a mangrove boat ride, eagle feeding and a third attraction I don’t remember now. The government gave fisherman small engines so that when fishing was banned, they could use small boats for such tourist visits, thus earning income in off-season.
Another fantastic video is ‘The Edge of Delta’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0SJrsc32U8 by Tariq A. Qaiser.
There are small changes within our System, which can be accomplished easily and with minimal cost to the government. IUCN, British Council and individuals are doing what they can within their resources but isn’t it time our governments stepped up to help the environment and, by extension, our coastal villages and cities?