KARACHI: Around five dozens of the school students and their teachers from different private schools of the city were walking in the dark beside the huts on the Karachi's Sandspit beaches on late Friday evening. After crossing huge size pits in the sand, they reached to a point where inside a pit; huge size green sea turtle was busy laying eggs. Spotlights were opened and everyone started taking photos with their cameras and their cell phones.
World Wildlife Fund for Nature, WWF-Pakistan had arranged this event, the 'Turtle Watch' activity for a group of around a dozen of journalists from Karachi, so that they may witness the turtle nesting and egg laying and how the children are watching the sight.
Umair Shahid, North Indian Ocean Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan told Daily Times that marine turtles' nesting site in Sindh is Sandspit beach, which is around seven-kilometre stretch, but it extends to some degree along the entire beach strip.
"This is one of the most important green turtle nesting sites in the world, but climate change and human intervention is posing serious threats to these endangered marine turtles," he said. The presence of huts along the nesting site, is attracting stray dogs, crows, kits and other predators, which are serious threats for the green turtle.
Sea turtles enjoy a protected status in Pakistan. However, their nesting habitats, including the Sandspit beaches, are not declared protected.
The 'Turtle Watch' activity was a part of WWF-Pakistan's project titled 'Sustainable fisheries entrepreneurship: a citizen based approach to saving Pakistan's unique marine environment' financially supported by Engro Foundation for community-Media Meet.
Engro Foundation has recently paid USD 460,000 to WWF-Pakistan for this project, so that it may work on the conservation of the marine resources.
Under this project both organizations are working on conservation of marine resources, management to combat illegal fishing and reduce pressure on marine ecosystems through increased awareness.
On the one side Engro Foundation seems so concerned about natural resources being lost , specially the threats to green sea turtle nesting site, for which Engro Foundation has paid such a huge amount from its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), on other side Engro Foundation itself is posing serious threats to the turtle nesting site.
Engro Foundation has built two recreation huts right on the green sea turtle nesting site along the sandspit beach of Karachi, which has great ecological importance, its where the endangered green turtles come out of sea and lay eggs. Visitors of the huts throw leftover food that invites kites, crow and stray dogs, which are predators of baby turtles. Also after coming out of egg, baby turtles are attracted to the lights of these huts and instead of going to sea, they start crawling towards the lights.
However, in a written response to Daily Times, though Engro Foundation admitted that they acquire huts on the site of these protected turtle nesting site, but rejected these allegations, saying that the Engro Foundation is not responsible for any damage to the environment and the marine eco-system in and around the Green Turtle beach through its recreation huts.
Engro Foundation Public Relation Officer (PRO) Shamikh Ahmed Zaidi, quoting the officials of the Engro in the written response said that the Company clarifies that all its huts adhere to our core value of protecting the environment.
"The facilities are in most cases not operational beyond sunset due to law and order situation of the area, therefore, the allegation of turtles being attracted to lights of the huts is questionable," said Zaidi.
The users of the hut are not allowed to stay beyond sunset due to safety concerns and most of the huts are not connected to the electricity grid and run on generators. Therefore, the statement that turtles get attracted to the lights of the hut is not correct.
In addition, Engro's huts are only to be used by our employees who have strict instructions of not to litter and no food or leftover food is thrown out which could potentially draw predators e.g. crows, stray dogs, etc.
"The Company reiterates its importance on conservation of the environment and has time and again, and through various initiatives, highlighted the same commitment which has recognized both locally and internationally," added the statement.