KETI BUNDER, THATTA: The provincial Forest Department on Thursday broke its own record and set a new world record by planting a million mangroves saplings, at Juho area near Keti Bunder in Thatta district.According to the team of Guinness Book of World Records, 1,129,294 mangrove saplings were planted by the department officials in what was a world record for most trees planted in a 24-hour period. Earlier, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari kicked off the mangroves plantation drive by planting saplings in a small island off the coast near Keti Bunder. Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah was also present on the occasion.The PPP chairman, the chief minister and provincial ministers Nisar Khuhro, Nasir Shah, and Ghulam Qadir Malkani reached the island in a hover. The earlier record had been set in 2013 at Kharo Chaan, Thatta district, by planting 847,275 saplings. For the new record, the department proceeded in accordance with guidelines mandated by the GWR authorities. These included plantations by 300 planters during only daylight hours in a 24-hour period.Briefing the PPP chairman, Forests Secretary Sohail Akbar Shah said, “since we would be attempting the record in estuarine intertidal mudflats, the availability of maximum time is critical. Taking assistance from the Tidal Data of the Pakistan Navy, the most suitable date was found to be April 19; where we can avail maximum daylight i.e. around 12.5 hours. So, in real time will be making the attempt from 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM, Pakistan Standard Time.” CM Syed Murad Ali Shah said, “the purpose of our attempt is to highlight and showcase the importance of Indus Delta Mangroves, its affiliated biodiversity and most importantly the communities dependent on this precious but threatened ecosystem. Our experience of the GWR 2009 and 2013 has brought the coastal areas into limelight and socio development activities are on the rise in these areas.”He said that the current attempt was financed by the Sindh government with the logistic and material support provided by the Pakistan Navy. “We expect the support and active participation from media, civil society, local representatives and large volume of the community in this important national event,” he said, adding that groups from media and local as well as national representatives would also be able to witness the current attempt and other conservation efforts of the Forest Department.“The purpose of the mangrove plantation is to raise the importance of the Indus Delta mangroves, its affiliated biodiversity and above all, the dependent coastal communities on this fragile and vulnerable ecosystem. The previous Guinness World Record set in 2009 is an example that events such as these can bring positive change in the local communities. The other aspect of this activity is to earn an international recognition vis-à-vis the plantation of hundreds of thousands of mangroves in a country, which is facing a severe loss of forest cover.”Conservationists consider mangroves as a natural defense line against natural disasters such as sea level rise, tropical storms and cyclones. Mangroves also provide natural habitat to marine life and are known as incredible carbon sequesters. The Indus delta mangrove ecosystem is the natural habitat for several species of fish, marine plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans and amphibians.During the ceremony, some journalists staged a protest against the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pakistan as well as the media facilitator for the Guinness World Records for inviting a select group of journalists and not letting everyone go and watch the plantation in person. Later, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto apologised to the journalists and assured that they would not have such complaints in future.Published in Daily Times, April 20th 2018.