Category Archives: Places

Rais Mureed in Danger!

Saying that forests are important and then writing about that is as cliche’d as it can get. However the forest in question, ‘Rais Mureed’ has been a sorry bone of contention since many years. I last covered the issue of Rais Mureed in 2007 and little has improved since then.

While the Pakistani Government loudly proclaimed the year 2007 as its ‘green Pakistan’ year and prominently showed leaders on television planting, saplings, the mutilation of full grown trees continued unpunished and unabated from the timber mafia in the North to the mangrove destruction in the estuary region in the South. IUCN data records show that replantation of mangroves is not even half as fast as their destruction. the local fishermen community needs its driftwood for firewood, but more damage has been done in the name ofland reclamation and security concerns. Land mafia here is the biggest stake holder and it seems people will go to any lengths where land is involved.

land reclamation in the estuary regions

Rais Mureed is a typical belo forest located in the Matiari district of Sindh. This is the only notable vegetation in the region as the area is generally barren with sparse patches of thorny keekarr dotting the landscape. The bela region is located generally inarrow belts along the Indus flood plains. Their main varieties include Babul (acacia arabica) which is used for tanning and fuel and Shisham (dalbergia sissoo) which is an important source of timber and used in making furniture.

pastoral scenes - Matiari district

The damage to Rais Mureed and its adjoining Khebrani forests has been extensive. The local Bhucha and Khebar communities are poor farmers and use the forest land for grazing purposes. As yet, they are reportedly the only obstacle to the influential persons of Sammon who want the land razed to ground level for agriculture. Recently a woman of the Bhucha community was killed during a police operation in the area and village persons have demanded suo motu notice.

The Rais Mureed forest was earlier spread over 12,000 acres and figures taken till 2008, show that the area had dwindled to just over 2,000 acres. the forest has thus been deprived of nearly 80 million trees spread over 10,000 acres of land!

cultivation - Matiari district

It is sad to see farmers looking at short term benefits rather than long term plans. Perhaps lack of education and specifically, geographical and agricultural knowledge of modern science can be related to this as erosion is imminent if the situation does not improve. The adjoining areas have sandy soil and the forest is the sole protector of the neighbouring crops of wheat, maize and sugar cane. If the forest is destroyed, the sandy soil will not be able to stop the inflow of water during floods and could lead to not only extensive crop damage but also waterlogging in the long run.

The Belo Bachayo committee was initially the lone voice against the tree-slaughter as the local Bhucha community was one of the main affectees. However, now Khebar, Khoso, Rind, Chohan, Sehto and other communities have also joined hands with the Indus Development Organization IDO to urge for an increase in aerial seeding, GIS mapping of the forest region and a reduction in leasing of forest land. In a recent press conference on 18th April 2011, they also urged for the Provincial Government to abide by the orders of the Sindh High court.

It is only to be hoped that environmental agencies and more importantly, the Government looks into this matter seriously before we face another bout of floods during the monsoon season.

Gone Fishing!

Tiger skins, antelope heads replete with antlers amongs others have for a long time been considered trophies worthy of drawing-room attention in the homes of
subcontinent big game hunters. Fishing however was a rare sport. The past few
decades have seen a rise in fishing by enthusiasts, firmly putting Pakistan on the map of big gamefishing in the world. The thrill of having hooked a fish once roves adrenaline surging for the many who do venture into this arena and they keep coming back for more. This has in turn resulted in burgeoning of industries most of which are located in Sialkot manufacturing fishing tackle, lead, sinkers, spoons, spinners, pliers, forceps and lines.

PGFA is the Pakistan Gamefishing Association located in Karachi. Its member anglers on the other hand belong to all areas and frequently visit diverse spots from Cape Monz in Karachi to Satpara lake in Skardu in search of fish. The association believes in conservation in heavily fished waters. The Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Group (PWDG) established by PGFA with WWF-Pakistan seeks to raise awareness about cetaceans in this regard. Anglers are encouraged to fish according to the international catch and release system, releasing after weighing and tagging, before the fish is exhausted. A weighstation facility has been provided at Mubarak Village in Karachi.

Pakistan boasts of a variety of both saltwater and freshwater gamefishes. Some better known salt water fishes include:

  • Marlin: It belongs to the category of billfish such as swordfish and is found near Churna island from Septemeber to December.
  • Barracuda is the only fish found all year round while others can be caught in particular seasons with Amberjack, Cobia and Pompano from August to October and Tuna, Shark Trevally and Shark being caught in other months.

Freshwater fishes include:

  • Trout: The Northern areas of Pakistan, especially Naran, Ghizar, Shandur pass, Phander lake, and Chitral are the prime spots for trout. A trout hatchery is located at Chitral which charges Rs 70 – 80 per catch. May to October are the best months for catching trout.
  • Carps and Catfish: Chashma barrage in Mianwali and Kinjhar Lake in Sindh are good spots.
  • Mahseer: Tarbela dam in Rawalpindi boasts of this fish mostly from September to November.
  • Others include the Great Snakehead, Clown Knifefish and various Tilapia found at various locations along the river Indus.

Various fishing techniques are used by anglers like:

  •  Fly Fishing: involves the usage of bits of feather or other artificial material as bait attached to the hook with a string while Dry fly fishing makes use of bait that will float on water. Both involve the angler usually standing in the water.
  • Surf casting has the angler stand on the edge of the water and cast the hook.
  • Trawling is recommended on lakes and big rivers.
  • A ‘Hora’ or stationary boat is also useful among the mangroves and can be boarded from several points in Karachi such as Gharo, Rehri Goth, Ibrahim Hyderi village, Russian Beach, Marina, Club etc.

Summer Getaways from Karachi

Pakistan has a rich biodiversity whose full potential is yet to be exploited fully for recreational benefit of the public. Nowhere is this state of affairs more apparent than in Sindh. The people of Sindh, especially Karachi are often found complaining of a lack of recreational places and comparisons with the northern parts of the country abound. People living in Islamabad and Lahore have the luxury of zooming off to cooler climes like Murree, Nathiagali and Bhurban anytime they choose. Lahore itself is culturally rich and has something to offer every palate.

towards Murree and the northern areas

Karachi has discovered and rediscovered malls in all shapes, sizes and manner of pocket-emptying slickness and plain gaudiness. Shopping along with eating remain the main trends here. The beaches and beautiful islands are there but more development is needed to bring these into public eye. A look out of the city towards the surrounding areas reveals a vast desert. Hyderabad, the closest major  city from Karachi is rarely seen as a recreational spot. The lure of Hyderabadi bangles from the choori gali (bangle market/lane) and the glazed icing cakes of the Bombay bakery in Hyderabad and even the shrines are not bait enough for most Karachiites. Perhaps a visit once in a few years can bring back old memories without dwindling into boredom. Debal- the reported landing place of Mohammad bin Qasim, Chaukhandi tombs or the largest necropolis of Makli are good spots for the archaelogically inclined or artistically inclined like myself, but hardly good  picnic spots for a family outing.

towards Hyderabad

In reality, Sindh isn’t far behind when it comes to natural beauty in which elders and minors both can benefit and find a different experience away from the madness of the traffic and noise of the city. So, if you are looking forward to spending a quiet day in a serene environment with your family on a lower budget, with the feeling of being ‘out of the city’ then you can go off to the lakes. Apart from its several man made reservoirs, Sindh contains a majority of freshwater lakes – offshoots of the mighty river Indus, which continues its meandering course down into the Arabian sea. Here are the main lakes, which hold promise as weekend getaways:

–       Manchhar lake is the largest with an expanse of around 200 square miles. Located at a distance of 16 kilometres from Sehwan Sharif in Dadu district this lake is facing rapid environmental degradation. Still, the Mohanas or fisher folk in their floating homes and the surrounding tall grasses with meadows of lotus lend the lake its particular charm. It attracts flocks of migratory birds during the winter season and is popular as a hunting spot. However recently their numbers have dwindled. The dense forest surrounding the dense forest surrounding the lake is home to many mammals and small game. Be sure to take adequate food, water and c gear with you as facilities provided there can hardly be called adequate.

–       Kalri – Kinjhar lake situated near Thatta has an attractive rest house, boating facilities and during winter it becomes an ideal spot for fishing and duck shooting. The rest house is quite comfortable and according to the keeper, people who desire to spend a few hours and are willing to pay for the expenses hardly need book their rooms in advance. This lake is famous for its extensive reed beds and is an internationally important area for the breeding of wintering water birds. However, if you plan to go in for boating and have minors in charge, it is advisable to make sure you have life saving equipment handy and inflatable life jackets of your own and that not more than 4 people are accomodated in one boat. There are numerous stories of accidents and fatal ones at that, happening to people who have not paid heed to this warning. There is a plan to set up a resort and a water park near by in future, which may serve to make the spot more attractive.

–       Haleji lake is located within an easy driving distance of 88 kilometres from Karachi. Enroute to Haleji are its numerous lagoons located at an easy distance from Hudero lake, which thus
forms an ideal home for waterfowl from mallards to flamingos and birdwatchers. Approximately 200 different species of birds have been seen here especially on the outcrops of the pelican island and the cormorant island. Take your binoculars along and enjoy the view in the summer months but do not stay here after dusk, or even for more than a few hours at a time, as the area is also reported to be frequented by dacoits.

According to an estimate several thousand visitors visit these lakes every week and make the most of a picturesque and peaceful outing. Whether you are interested in hunting, fishing, bird watching, boating or simply travelling, the lakes of interior Sindh may provide a very different experience for you and your family.

Offshore Retreats of Karachi

heading towards the mangrove region

Karachi, the city by the sea, has a natural harbour. The shoreline curves from Manora, which is the breakwater to Cape Monz, which is the other lighthouse. It can also boast of quite a few offshore retreats surrounded by mangroves that serve as nesting places for the sea life and maintain ecological balance. Sadly, mangrove destruction by the locals when they utilize it as firewood and recent dredging is endangering these areas. Nevertheless, the islands and rocky mounds in the estuary region are worth visiting if you are a sea enthusiast.

Here’s a general look at these sea havens:

–           Bhit Shah island:

It is located 7 kilometres from Karachi and has around 12,000 katchi abadi residents whose livelihood is fishing.

–           Bhundhar (Bundal island) and Dingi (Buddo island)

These twin islands belong to Port Qasim Authority. Bhundhar is the largest. They are located about 1.5 kilometres from Defence Phase 8, between Phitti and Korangi creeks. During the fishing season fisher folk swarm the area to clean their nets and dry their fish. There are
plans to build two island resorts and a bridge to link Phase 8 with the islands. The islands will be renamed Diamond Bar City. A Dubai based construction company

serene sands near Mubarak village

is working on the estimated 12,000 acres through reclamation of the mangrove forests, which connect the two islands. Construction is currently being carried out on Bhundhar Island. 15,000 houses
will be sold to the public in the first stage.

–           Oyster rocks:

A clear view can be obtained of these picturesque rocks from Clifton. They can be reached via KPT boats from Keamari. An underwater cave into which boats can sail is reachable during low tide. Once inside, the visitor is treated to a display of crystallized rocks that twinkle in torchlight.  These rocks are now the home of one of the worlds tallest man made fountains.

–           Churna Rock:

It is one of the biggest and frequent fishing spots for fishing enthusiasts and fishermen alike in their powerboats from Karachi’s boating clubs. Many people drive to nearby villages such as the beautiful Mubarak village and hire boats from there. Divers of all levels get a chance to hone their diving skills here as diving activities are also undertaken at 0 – 30 feet depth. It is a good idea to check the condition of the sea and inquire at local fishing villages before your sojourn here as the waters can get pretty rough and you may just find yourself leaning out of the boat throughout the ride if you head into a stormy sea – an experience I have had the misfortune to face.

–           Chota Churna:

This smaller island is directly opposite Gaddani and has been named thus by the fishermen.

–           Baba island:

Inhabited by fishermen, it is situated 1 kilometre from Keamari. Recent inauguration of a 12-bed dispensary, 24-hour emergency and maternity health facilities from a multinational concern make it the first island to have modern health amenities. Facilitation of fresh water
supply is also in the pipeline.

–           Manora island:

The island of yore has now become connected to the mainland via the 12 kilometres long causeway of Sandspit beach. Technically it is now a peninsula and has a population of approximately 10,000 people. It can be reached easily by boat from Keamari. Tourist attractions include the 91 feet high Manora lighthouse with its colourful and traditional tiled flooring, a dilapidated but still exotic mandir with the smell of incense inside, colonial style churches, and a thin strip of the Manora beach replete with camel rides.