Concrete Jungle Threatens Mangroves

The mangroves are considered an important component of Karachi’s environment, which has suffered decades of high pollution and neglect.

A short boat ride from the shores of Karachi, mangrove trees sprout along the quiet inlets of an uninhabited island that environmentalists say provides vital coastal protection to Pakistan’s largest city.

But the calm of Bundle Island, home to a few camels, is at risk, with plans to turn it into an enormous real-estate project to ease pressure on the expanding mega city home to 20 million people. The $50-billion housing development has pitted regional leaders against the central government, with local activists and lawmakers accusing the prime minister of reneging on pro-environment promises.

“Let nature restore itself and (do) not dream of these big, grand cities,” said Mahera Omar, an environmental film-maker from Karachi who enjoys kayaking around Bundle and meandering through the island’s mangroves.

Coastal mangroves act as a natural barrier, soaking up wave energy and limiting the extent of flooding.”These islands form a barrier against storm surges and tsunamis. Their preservation is vital for the preservation of Karachi,” said Arif Belgaumi, an architect and town planner.

Bundle Island floods during particularly high tides, so any construction would also require environmentally damaging reclamation work that could have knock-on effects for Karachi, Belgaumi added.

Bundle Island, located in the Arabian Sea, is uninhabited except for a few camels and other creatures.It nonetheless has been whacked by urbanisation — the sandy beach facing Karachi is strewn with plastic rubbish and medical waste that washes ashore from the megalopolis.

The mangroves are considered an important component of Karachi’s environment, which has suffered decades of high pollution and neglect, with the trees acting as natural filters that clean water and protect baby fish.

“The people of Karachi actually relate to mangroves as… a natural part of their lives,” Wahab said. “That is why we are so territorial about it. That is why we feel so passionate about these mangroves.”

Originally published at telanganatoday

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