Pakistan: lively hood in fishing community at risk

Press Release – Asian Human Rights Commission

Mangrove tree is a specialized marine ecosystem consisting of a group of plants growing in muddy, loose and wet soils in tropical and sub-tropical areas, comprising of shallow, coastal waters, deltas and estuaries or lagoons. The specific regions where these …FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-ART-002-2012
January 20, 2012

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Genocide of main source of lively hood in fishing community

By Qurat Mirza

Mangrove tree is a specialized marine ecosystem consisting of a group of plants growing in muddy, loose and wet soils in tropical and sub-tropical areas, comprising of shallow, coastal waters, deltas and estuaries or lagoons. The specific regions where these plants occur are termed as ‘mangrove ecosystem’. These are highly productive, if the genocide is continued it would undermined the lively hood of whole fishing community. Since the mangrove forests are the nurseries of crab and shrimps, therefore the massive harvesting of the mangrove forest directly affect the fisherwomen as they practice to catch the crabs and shrimps from these nurseries while their men are away for long fishing trips.

Importance of Mangroves:

Shoreline Protection: Mangroves protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves, and floods.

Nursery: Mangroves serve as valuable nursery areas for fish and invertebrates serving as valuable nursery areas for shrimp, crustaceans, molluscs, and fishes

Mangroves are a food source: Marine life including economically important shrimp, crabs, and fish. These marine species are dependent upon the mangrove system during at least part of their life cycles.

Threatened and Endangered Species: Mangroves Support Threatened and Endangered Species. In addition to commercially important species, mangroves also support a number of threatened and endangered species.

Renewable Resource: Mangroves are utilized in many parts of the world as a renewable resource. Harvested for durable, water-resistant wood, mangroves have been used in building houses, boats, pilings, and furniture. The wood of the black mangrove and buttonwood trees has also been utilized in the production of charcoal. Tannins and other dyes are extracted from mangrove bark. Leaves have been used in tea, medicine, livestock feed.

Cutting of Mangroves: In fact the move of cutting mangroves plants near Karachi has a long history in the name of urban development through reclamation of coastal land. The new phase is looking so horrible and it seems they have planned to move entire forests depriving the citizens of mega city of the natural beauty, putting them vulnerable to cyclones and horrible sea storms. Mangrove areas act as physical breeding grounds and nurseries for fish, shrimp and crabs. They are also natural habitat to a large number of insects, micro organisms, birds and turtles. During winters, many guest birds from Siberia and other cold areas also come to breed here. The mangrove forests protect the coasts from dangerous cyclones and hurricanes. Hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly depend on the mangrove ecosystem for living. For centuries they have been used by human being for getting fuel wood and fodder for their animals. Over the last five decades, mangrove forests in Pakistan have been subject to over exploitation and massive population pressure, and are therefore deteriorating fast in the quantity as well as quality.

The criminal activities of land mafia along 129 Km extended strip of Karachi coast have been dreadfully increased by speeding up the cutting of mangroves forests, filling earth into the sea, occupying the coastal land and selling it out, occupying the ancient villages of fishermen and threatening them to life. However, the UN has declared the Year 2011 as the Forests Conservation Year and Pakistan has endorsed it, but the criminal silence of law enforcement agencies and relevant departments of Sindh is encouraging the land mafia to do so. Such a situation has turned the livelihood of fishermen and the entire costal eco system into a misery.

Introduction to Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum: Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) is a peoples’ organization having a membership of 60,000 fisherfolk across Pakistan. PFF has been striving to protect the socio-economic and political rights of underprivileged fishermen of Pakistan since last 12 years. PFF is a founder member of World Forum of Fisher Peoples.

PFF’s Role & Struggle against Mangroves Cutting: Being the sole representative organization of fisher community PFF is working for the community development and making efforts to protecting their rights. PFF has well organized units at all the waters both marine and inland. Besides, PFF is striving to protect and conserve natural ecosystem along the coast of Pakistan and Indus Delta since last many years.

On raising the voice against such malpractices by the indigenous fishermen along with their organization Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), the mafia started its bitter enmity towards local fishermen and PFF as well. PFF continued its struggle and campaign against such criminals in terms of holding consultation meetings with all relevant stakeholders, relevant ministries, parliamentarians, civil society, media, academia, lawyers and intellectuals, staging sit-ins, press conferences, rallies, demonstrations, hunger strikes, appeals to the humanitarian commissions, letters to the high authorities of government, petitions in the courts of law, meetings with the Home Ministers and the Chief Minister but of no use. Government is seemed to support these culprits because the mafia is at large and its criminal activities have become more intense. As a result of this criminal support heads of land mafia have become more powerful, they kidnapped the two brave activist of PFF named Mr. Abdul Ghani and Haji Abu Bakar from their homes and killed them after brutal torture.

An FIR lodged against the culprits but the murderers are at large and have not been arrested so far. The government and the law enforcement agencies do not bother to take any notice of this brutality rather the Government seemed to support these culprits.

PFF took all the stakeholders and representatives of all walks of life in order to chalk out a joint strategy so that justice could be ensured with the families of the martyrs, coastal areas and their mangroves.

Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah Chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) expresses severe state of grievance upon the role of government bodies and social sector against the killing of the mangroves. According to him only fishermen can understand the value of the savior trees. Despite of this fact that genocide of mangroves is a legal crime, the government seemed helpless in front of those culprits who are involved in these filthy activities.

This is our prime responsibility to get up, join hands and fight against this crime and pressurise the state bodies to make an appropriate strategy to save the SAVIORS!!!

Miss Qurat Mirza is researcher at Pakistan Fisherfolk she can be reached at qurat.mirza@ahrc.asia.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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