Course:FRST370/Projects/An assessment of the legal status and management of the Indus Delta Mangrove Forest, Port Qasim region of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan

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This case study will be an assessment of the legal status and management of the Indus Delta Mangrove Forest, Port Qasim region of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. This forest provides marine life hatching sites, essential nutrients, weather protection and fire fuel wood for the communities adjacent to it. Due to mismanagement and exploitation, efforts are now taking place to replant and preserve this site. This case study will explore the tenure rights of the nation, state and community based organizations that emerge from the communities in the Port Qasim region. It will also explore the role non-governmental organizations and funding bodies play in mangrove replanting, conservation and sustainability projects.

Mangrove forest of Indus Delta in the Port Qasim Authority of Sindh, Pakistan.


This case study takes place in the Port Qasim region of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It is focused on the degradation and subsequent efforts of conservation of the mangrove ecosystem. The mangroves provide firewood to local communities, protection from tsunamis and adds essential nutrients to the waterways which in turn support the marine life. [1] It also provides hatching sites for marine life, which are then fished and caught by local fishermen which is instrumental to their livelihood in terms of sales and personal food stock. [2] Mismanagement and exploitation of the mangroves has resulted in a decrease of enriched marine life and available forest products. [3] In Pakistan, 97% of mangroves are found in the Sindh Province, with 10.5% being under the jurisdiction of the Port Qasim Authority. [4]

In Pakistan, 97% of mangroves are found in the Sindh Province.
Workers cut mangrove trees near Baba Island off Karachi's coast.

Tenure arrangements

All forests in Sindh are state-owned. In 2010, the Sindh government declared mangroves to be ‘protected forests’ under the Forestry Act of 1927. [5] This means that there is a prohibition of clearing, harvesting and animal grazing. Provincial Forest Departments (PFDs) are responsible for forest protection, management and law enforcement. Port Qasim Authority is responsible for management of 10.5% of the total Mangrove Area along the Indus Delta, whereas the Sindh Forest Department (provincial level) is responsible for management for 46%. [4] According to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Pakistan's forest tenure laws under the Land Revenue Act of 1967 describes that land can be classified as "state land, privately held land, or land subject to communal rights under customary law. However, land ownership is rarely registered and titles to land are often determined by land revenue records. Community titling of land is uncommon." [6] In the same report, community forest rights are describes as being under the control of the provincial government in that they "may assign to any village community the rights to manage reserve forests, whilst stipulating the rules for such management. Little use has been made of this provision." [6]

Administrative arrangements

Provincial Forest Departments are responsible for patrolling mangrove areas under their control and enforcing legislation. The Port Qasim Authority is responsible for monitoring mangrove areas under their control. Community agreements are project-based, while the provincial government outright owns the land in legal terms, community members are involved in specific projects and compensated for this. [7] In this way, communities do not have formal land use rights. However, outside agencies offer funding and enter into agreements with community-based organization (CBOs). These CBOs are government-registered and receive funds for labour and monitoring which are usually poured into community infrastructure, as well as incentive payments based on the survival of planted seedlings. CBOs are meant to represent all households within a village. [4] An NGO or local forest department work as intermediaries between CBOs and fund providers (such as International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund or Mangroves for the Future) [8] and produce written agreements to enagage with local communities. The Sindh Forest Department has a fleet of boats and local staff- they also employ “community watchers” who are members of the community that are paid 6,000 Pakistani rupees (nearly $60 cad) per month for every 60 hectares. Other duties for villagers aside from re-planting and monitoring include mapping out mangrove areas using technology provided by an outside funder. [4]

Indus Delta management status as divided by hectares.

Affected Stakeholders

Affected stakeholders include community members that live in the Port Qasim Authority area and owners of the seaport itself. All aforementioned stakeholders benefit from the continued existence, replanting and conservation of the mangrove systems as they protect the port area and adjacent villages from tsunamis and other water-based natural disasters.

Community members can be broken up into separate groups: fishermen, women, and children. The fishermen are an affected stakeholder group because the health of the mangroves directly affect their fishing stock. The mangroves provide a habitat for various types of marine life. Without their existence, the fishermen have lost their main source of livelihood. [9]

Women are an affected stakeholder group because they are specifically tasked with replanting the mangroves as part of community agreements and stand to receive funds for each seedling that survives. [4]

Children are an affected stakeholder group as funds received for managing and protecting the mangrove forest are used, in part, to support schools in the villages in the mangrove area. [10]

The community members of all three categories have low relative power as they do not have actual outlined land use-rights enshrined in law and are open victims to exploitation as they lack both social standing and finances to make their voice known.

PFC Mangrove jack and dentex fishing at Port Qasim.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested stakeholders include the donor groups that implement community-based projects within the villages. This includes Mangroves for the Future, World Wildlife Fund, and International Union for Conservation of Nature. These groups have high power in the way of setting up programs and managing them in what way they see fit as they are the ones who provide the funding and therefore can make the final decisions. [4] These groups are international organizations that may include members from a wide global background. Although they aren't directly affected by mangrove forests in way of livelihood, they are interested due to a passion of environmentalism, biodiversity and sustainability. [8] Although provincial governments are benefactors when partnering with these agencies as the agencies bring funding to the table, they aren't absolute in their power. These groups hold certain amount of power in terms of holding Pakistan accountable to provincial forestry legislation, but are limited in terms of their political clout and do rely on incentivization to put forth certain projects. [2]


The main aims of the community forestry project rely on replanting of mangrove forests and subsequent maintenance of these seedlings. These projects also rely on ‘community watchers’ that monitor the forests to ensure that exploitation is not occurring. Overall, agreements between communities and donor groups such as ICUN and WWF are most successful when done through the provincial forest department acting as an intermediary. [6] It works to hold both groups accountable and also encourages involvement of the province in the outcome of the project. One of the most important ways to begin the project involves an awareness campaign in which they hold informational sessions for the community to understand the full importance and scope of conservation of the mangrove system. [10] Additionally, the funding actually going into community infrastructure and in the pockets of villagers is what really works to keep the communities engaged and involved in the processes as they receive tangible results. Moreover, incentives such as the building of ‘crab ponds’ is a way for villagers to physically see the results and benefits of a thriving mangrove system and allows them to maintain something that already exists as opposed to rescuing something that has been obliterated. [6] Critical issues involve the dismissal of the Forestry Act which prohibits all types of grazing and harvesting of the mangrove forest and the main way that this is managed is by providing financial incentive for community members to help prevent this.

Women from the local community participating in replanting efforts in the Port Qasim Authority area of Sindh.


The provincial government holds all the political and social power between all actors involved in forestry projects regarding the mangroves. They hold all legal rights and as such are able to initiate engagement or prohibit engagement as they see fit. [5] Outside conservation organizations hold financial power in that they are often financiers of these community-based agreements but would not be able to operate if blocked by the provincial government. The community members themselves are beholden to the objectives of the government and outside conservation groups as their rights to the mangrove forest are not enshrined in law and therefore their social power is minuscule relative to other actors within the project. [6] It is essential, then, that the provincial government makes it a priority within their mandate to create partnerships with local communities in order to combat issues such as exploitation, greater concentrations of salt which gravely damage mangrove forest roots and, general mismanagement of a fast-disappearing resource. [4]


My main recommendation would be to empower local CBOs to lobby for forest rights enshrined in law. Since Pakistan does not have any national legislation for forest management, they have more of an opportunity to make their position known within their province and more specifically, within Port Qasim. Another main issue is lack of knowledge surrounding the benefits that the mangrove system provides to the villages. Programs and sessions aimed at raising awareness and education surrounding this would be extremely beneficial for communities and younger generations to understand the impact of certain practices within their ecosystem. Furthermore, if provincial governments enter into longer-term financial agreements with outside conservation organizations, more sustainable initiatives can be implemented within the communities that live adjacent to the mangrove systems. In order to accomplish this, there must be buy-in for the community, and that includes incentivizing efforts of sustainability, which includes appealing to the fishermen and building more crab pools and other marine hatching sites that mimic the natural function of mangroves as ecosystem pegs for marine life.


  1. Adhikari, B., Baig, S. P., & Iftikhar, U.A. (2010). "The Use and Management of Mangrove Ecosystems in Pakistan". Journal of Environment & Development. 19 (4): 446–467.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kidwai, S., Fanning, P., Ahmed, W., Tabrez, M., Zhang, J., & Khan, M. W. (2016). "Practicality of marine protected areas - Can there be solutions for the River Indus delta?". Estuarine Coastal & Shelf Science. 183: 349–359.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Amjad, S., Rasheed, M.A., & Baig, M.A. (2016). "Mangrove Ecosystem Services: Indus Delta (PQA), Sind". Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection. 04 (07): 179–184.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Shah, Q. Q. (n.d.). Mangrove-related policy and institutional framework in Pakistan (pp. 1-28, Rep.). Mangroves for the Future.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Forest Department- Government of Sindh. "Forest Act of 1927".
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Beresnev, N., Pung, T., & Broadhead, J. (n.d.). Mangrove-related policy and institutional frameworks in Pakistan, Thailand and Viet Nam (pp. 16-28, Rep.). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  7. Memon, J. A., & Thapa, G. B. (2016). "Explaining the de facto open access of public property commons: Insights from the Indus Delta mangrove". Environmental Science & Policy. 66: 151–159.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Mangroves for the Future".
  9. Salik, K. M., Jahangir, S., Zahdi, W. U., & Hasson, S. U. (2015). "An assessment of status and distribution of mangrove forest cover in Pakistan". Ocean & Coastal Management. 112: 61–73.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Future, M. F. (n.d.). "Valuation of Mangroves in PQA Indus Delta: An Econometric Approach".

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This conservation resource was created by R.Syeda.