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Reviving Pakistan's Mangroves
The Indus River delta, which fans out into the Arabian Sea, is home to the largest desert climate mangrove forests in the world. The mangroves – set between the sea and the land - provide nursery habitats for an array of sea life and wood for local people to use as fuel and timber. They also provide vital protection against erosion and storms.
But tragically, in the last 15 years, over 70% of the mangroves in the delta have been lost. A toxic combination of a shortage of fresh water flowing from the Indus, overharvesting of trees, industrial pollution, and increased levels of sedimentation has had a devastating impact on coastal Sindh, particularly in Thatta and Badin districts, which lie at the centre of this highly fragile ecosystem.
An impoverished coastline
The people living in these areas are some of the poorest in Pakistan with little access to government services. Over 90% of the population lives in reed shacks with no cooking or toilet facilities, and most children do not attend school. They eke out a living from agriculture and fisheries, while others survive on making baskets, mats and sales of bamboo. Literacy for women is as low as 14%.
Sadly, the poverty of these coastal dwellers is increasing at an alarming rate as salt water intrusion weakens their traditional land-based livelihoods. And as people increasingly turn to the sea to survive, they are finding fish stocks in the Arabian Sea are now in decline due to uncontrolled foreign fishing.
To help bring these struggling communities out of poverty, and to revitalize the mangrove forests, ADB is funding a wide-ranging US$36 million development project along the Sindh coast.
Working in collaboration with the Forest Department of the Government of Sindh, and with technical support from the International Union of Conservation Nature, an NGO, the project – which started in 2007 and is expected to end in 2013 - aims to increase household incomes, access to government services, and improve coastal management by planting over 6,300 hectares of mangroves.
A need for water
“This project has given us life.”
– Ms. Lal Khatoon,
a resident of Dhani Bux Samoon
The people of Dhani Bux Samoon, a small village in Badin district, have long suffered from having no fresh water. Local supplies are salty, and women and children have had to walk about an hour to fetch clean supplies. Its scarcity has meant people often saved and reused their water, which led to water-borne diseases such as diarrhea.
As part of the ADB project, communities formed organizations which decided on small projects that would improve their lives. These projects were funded up to US$5,800, with the community contributing extra cash or labor towards their chosen scheme. The 27 households of Dhani Bux Samoon managed to contribute $172 towards the construction of two reservoirs, which now treats and distributes water to the entire village, and has also seen a dramatic reduction of water-borne diseases.
Nearly 1,000 community organizations have been formed and 540 projects have been implemented. The strong partnership between ADB and these communities have so far built small bridges, community toilets and introduced solar powered lighting.
As village resident Lal Khatoon says: "This project has given us life."