Will the green ‘adventure’ thrive?
* Forest department officials refuse to let journalists visit 2009 plantation site
Text and Photos by Amar Guriro
KARACHI: Overturning its nuclear rival India's previous record of planting maximum number of mangrove saplings in a single day, Pakistan set a new Guinness World Record (GWR) on Saturday of planting these littoral plants, which are also known as coastal Sepoy.
In a ceremony held at Deltaic town of River Indus-Keti Bandar, the authorities of Sindh Forest Department (SFD) announced of setting the world record. The GWR confirmed the plantation of 847,275 mangrove saplings along Indus Delta.
Additional Secretary SFD Aijaz A Nizamani announced the setting of national award in the presence of the GWR adjudicators Rafiqul Haq, Chief conservator SFD Riaz Wagan, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pakistan Chief Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, IUCN's Tahir Qureshi and Nadeem Mirbahar and marine biologist Shaukat Hayat and a large number of local and foreign journalists from both print and electronic media.
The GWR is a universally recognised authority on the cataloguing and verification of a huge number of world records - the organisation employs official record adjudicators authorised to verify the setting and breaking of records.
Despite such a historical event, no one from federal government, ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Pakistan People's Party (PPP) attended the ceremony.
The event was organised jointly by the SFD, Sindh Coastal Development Authority, IUCN and World Bank, which is the actual donor for this event.
According to the officials of the SFD, the activity was organised under Sindh Coastal Community Development project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The department acquired Rs 5 million loan from ADB for the event, which will be returned back to the bank by provincial government. IUCN Pakistan has been working as an implementation partner on this project for the last 5 years. IUCN is also the media facilitator for the GWR event.
The SFD in 2009 had set a record by planting 541,176 saplings in Keti Bunder, which was overturned by India in 2010. It is also worth mentioning here that despite media insistence to visit the 2009 site, officials of the department refused, and only stated that there is a lot of vegetation at the previous record site.
For Saturday's event, the forest department planned to plant at least 750,000 mangrove saplings in Kharo Chaan, Thatta in one go, to regain the international title. The department hired 300 paid workers to plant the saplings.
The workers reached Kharo Chaan from Keti Bandar at dawn and started planting mangrove saplings at 7:00 am in the creeks of Indus delta. According to IUCN's Ghulam Qadir Shah, these saplings were planted over an area of 750 hectares. The paid workers were divided into 10 groups, comprising 30 workers each, with two bags of saplings containing 1,100 saplings.
"We will pay Rs 1,000 to each worker and a pair of clothes for this job," said chief conservator Riaz Wagan. However, a worker busy planting saplings said that he is not aware how much he will get at the end of the day.
Pakistan Navy had extended scientific support to the SFD for the event. Based on the tidal data shared by the Navy, June 22 was selected as the most opportune day to avail maximum daylight hours, which was 14 hours approximately.
A day before the event, the department arranged an inaugural ceremony on Friday evening in Keti Bunder followed by a cultural programme and dinner, for which according to the officials, the department spent, Rs 400,000 on just the payments of the singers, sound system and lighting for the musical programme.
Keti Bunder, one of the most neglected and least advantaged town of Indus delta, the ceremony was the second largest event, held after four years - last event was while setting the previous record.
Many banners praising the greatness of Sindh MPA Owais Muzhafar alias Tappi were on display, however the condition of the town, suffering due to unpaved streets, lack of sewerage system and drinking water, belied the statements.
Though the residents enjoyed the musical night, they were not interested in the world record and nobody participated in the activity, except the paid workers.
The statement issued by IUCN regarding the event, declares that the communities in Keti Bandar, since the GWR of 2009 have received clean drinking water facility, a fully functional jetty with fish storage space, and a network of metalled roads under various projects, but none of the claims held true when this scribe surveyed the area and spoke to the locals.
According to the officials, the overall purpose of the activity is to focus on the significance of the Indus Delta mangroves, its affiliated biodiversity and above all, the dependence of the coastal communities on this fragile and vulnerable ecosystem.
Mangroves act as a natural defence line against natural disasters such as sea storms and cyclones. They are home to an array of marine life and are also known as incredible carbon sequesters. Indus delta with its outstanding ecological and cultural significance occupies a significant area along the coast of Sindh. But again the question is after spending such huge sums of loan money; will the forest department maintain the sapling growth?
Fighting for record :