Eco-Tourism in Karachi

The following is an article while appeared in Daily Jang’s magazine, the City Pulse. Written by George Sadiq. It was too good not to reproduce here.

Karachi is a recreation starved city with negligible leisure facilities that puts an extra burden on the mental and physical well being of its population. However, there is no dearth of serenity, natural beauty, bird watching and blind dolphins in and around Karachi. What takes is just an effort to explore it. The mangroves forest in the Indus Delta and the beaches around Karachi have them all.

Indus Delta is the fifth largest delta in the world. The fan-shaped delta consists of creeks, estuaries, mud flats, sand dunes, mangrove habitat, marshes and sea bays. It shelters 82,669 hectares of mangroves, which comprises 97 percent of the total mangrove area in the country and is said to be the largest coastal mangrove forest in the world. In its goal to conserve the biodiversity of the Earth, the international WWF has recognised over 200 globally unique eco-regions. The magnificent Indus Delta is one of them. A large number of species of birds, (including the threatened Dalmatian pelican) of fish and shrimps, and of dolphins (Plumbeous dolphin, Finless porpoise, and Bottlenose dolphin), humpback whale and reptiles are found here.

It is a pristine tourist spot worth exploring. Mangroves are not just natural habitat but also the perfect breeding sanctuaries of shrimps, crabs and fish. They proved to be a strong physical barrier against Tsunami in the year 2004. It was observed that comparatively loss of life and property was less in the areas that had mangroves. Due to global climatic change and increasing frequency in natural disasters like cyclone, typhoons and hurricane and tsunamis the importance of mangroves is being felt more seriously. So, with this importance also rises the need to support it and eco-tourism is the best way to let them grow.

The term eco-tourism has, in recent years, become a popular slogan used by environmentalists and tour operators the world over. However, what exactly is eco-tourism? In a nutshell, eco-tourism can be defined as environmentally and socially responsible tourism that aims to protect nature through providing the means to do so (awareness raising and financial support) by directly supporting local communities. Other aspects such as the sustainability of local culture and history are also included. Instead of traveling in large groups, consider taking the trip with a small group of like-minded people. This approach can have many benefits from communities being better able to accommodate fewer people, better access to local porters and guides and improved chances of spotting wildlife.

As you leave the shore on a boat for your journey through beautiful maze of water channels you will find herds of camels known as ships of the deserts streaming through the sea water with the same elegance in the creeks from one patch of land to another. These camels remain on these small islands surrounded by seawater for weeks and keep grazing. During this time their owners go after them with supply of sweet water.

In the meandering creeks of this delta, dolphin lovers can come across face to face with dipping and diving sea dolphins. Mudskipper, an amphibian specie is also found splattering in the muddy creek in abundance. It is a fond delicacy in the East Asia countries but not eaten by Pakistanis.

A beautiful wooden pathway is also built over the mangroves that give a person an opportunity to move from one end of the mangroves patch covering area of one kilometer. Without this pathway, it would have been impossible to tread through this thick forest. The other countries that have built this type of pathways in the mangroves are Singapore, Thailand and Japan. IUCN-Pakistan built this walkway after Sir Crispin Tickle, Advisor on Environment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited mangroves in 1996 and felt the need of a pathway and recommended to the British High Commission who was very generous in providing the necessary funding.

Furthermore, being situated on the Indus migratory bird flyway, the islands offer unique opportunities to bird watchers during the migratory season. They also house a variety of resident birds that may form a tourist attraction. Flocks of resident birds e.g. wader, egrets, kites, ospreys, kingfishers, herons, sea gulls can be seen both in the morning and evening.

During winter, it provides abode and is also a breeding sanctuary to migratory birds from Central Asia and they stay here for about three months wintering in the subcontinent. One can see flocks of pelicans, flamingos, cranes and cormorants.

These creeks also treasure the archaeological sites, which include Bhambore Island to which a popular folklore of Sassi and Pannu is attributed. It lies on one of the islands amongst these creeks of Indus delta. It also includes 500 – 600 years old ruins of the Ratoo Kot Fort some graves and shrines, are also located here. The fort appears to have been a customhouse and also a forward defensive position against marauding pirates and invaders and is of a size sufficient to control the channel access to Bhambore. These archaeological remains have not been maintained and are deteriorating rapidly.

One might also come across jackals roaming in the woods and would also be surprised that they are also very good swimmers who swim through channels for hunt of fish.

Before leaving the shore one can also have experience of fisher-folks life seeing them weaving their nets and the women cleaning their husbands catch. Repair of nets and boats also goes on in routine. Overall the visit to the Indus delta can be an exciting experience.

3 Comments so far

  1. Purple_Haze (unregistered) on December 31st, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    Picturessssss


  2. Kashif (unregistered) on January 1st, 2007 @ 1:39 am

    seems good ole’ georgie is getting popular now :)

    for more info on eco-tourism check: http://www.ecotourism.org.pk/


  3. Adil Mulki (unregistered) on January 3rd, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

    you wanted pics ? here’s the link:

    http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2006-weekly/citypulse-18-12-2006/index.htm

    by the way … the article is just a bit illusory, in the sense that the article seems to be covering one little area with all the sights and sounds described in it. However, the reality goes that the sights and sounds described in the article are dispersed over vast distances and it might not be possible to cover them all in one day :)



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