Pakistan: Mangrove Restoration through The Korangi Ecosystem Project


The Korangi Ecosystem Project was set up to develop a management plan for the two major creeks adjacent to Karachi–Korangi and Phitti Creek. These creeks cover about 60,000 hectares and have some of the densest growth of mangroves, near the largest concentrations of people (100,000), on the northern edge of the Indus Delta. Project activities include surveys and models of mangrove distribution and biodiversity, establishment of extensive mangrove plantations, and community education and awareness programs aimed at stabilizing the relationship between local economies and ecosystems. Originally intended to be used as a model for sustainable management in the Indus Delta as a whole, the Korangi Project now serves as a model for mangrove rehabilitation efforts, not only in Pakistan, but in other coastal areas, including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and some areas in South East Asia.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Korangi Creek, Karachi, Pakistan, 24.8032646, 67.12390900000003

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:


Estuaries, Marshes & Mangroves

Area being restored:
6,000+ hectares

Project Lead:
The World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Organization Type:


Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Mining & Resource Extraction, Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

Over the past 13 years, the degradation of Pakistan’s mangroves has occurred at the rate of 6 percent per annum. As a result, only 16 percent of Pakistan’s mangroves are thought to be healthy (Qureshi, 1992). The most harmful environmental stress that the mangroves face today derives largely from human activity. The steady growth of a major industrial city within the vicinity (Karachi) has brought an influx of untreated sewage and industrial discharge, an increase in the demand for fuel wood, overgrazing and general over-exploitation of resources. Steel mills, refineries and power stations are some of the large polluting industries found in the area. Tanneries are perhaps the worst, though. Their untreated effluents, massively loaded with heavy metals, are being disposed daily into the sea, thereby contaminating the food chain. High concentrations of heavy metal such as lead, zinc, copper, nickel, cadmium, mercury and cobalt have recently been recorded in marine biota and sediments (Davis, 1993).

Increasing salinity and a reduction of incoming freshwater flows also threaten the survival of the mangrove ecosystem. The estimated available freshwater flow of the Indus Delta is about 180 billion-m³, carrying with it some 400 million tones of silt. However, construction of dams and irrigation channels has reduced the annual flow that reaches the mangroves to less than 43 billion m³ (Davis, 1993). The resulting spike in salinity levels has severely degraded the ecosystem and has decimated less salt-tolerant species.

Reference Ecosystem Description

The Indus Delta mangrove ecosystem is dominated by a single species, Avicennia marina (representing over 95% of the trees), although a few stands of Ceriops tagal, Bruguiera conjugata and Aegiceras corniculatum also exist. The predominance of A. marina is thought to be a result of its resistance against adverse environmental conditions and over-exploitation of the other species. In fact, Rhizophora mucronata once grew in the delta but it is thought to have died out due to selective over-exploitation and degrading conditions.

Over 150 species of fish have thus far been recorded in the mangroves, and shrimp, crabs, egrets, cormorants, storks, seagulls, herons and kites are also abundant. Moreover, the delta mangroves are visited each year by millions of migrating waterfowl–pelicans, flamingos and herons among them.

Project Goals

The primary goal of IUCNP’s effort is to assess biological feasibility for large scale reintroduction of mangroves along Pakistan’s coastline and to facilitate the establishment of extensive mangrove plantations as a part of the Mangrove rehabilitation programme.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


Major stakeholders in this project include the Governments of Sindh and Balochistan, local government entities, such as the Forests and Fisheries Departments, Karachi Development Authority, and the Port Qasim Authority, representatives from local business and industry, representatives from Academia and research institutions, and community members who depend on the mangroves for various resources and commodities.

Description of Project Activities:
Normally low lying open areas and mud flats are selected for new plantations. These areas get regular flushing by sea water, and the seedlings or saplings have little difficulty in developing root systems. There are different techniques for planting the various species. The most common method is direct planting of the propagules / seeds in the mud flats. The seeds of Avicennia marina and Aegiceras corniculatum are very small and easily washed away by the currents. Indeed, this is their normal means of dispersal. For cultivation, however, these species are easily raised in containers and then the seedlings are transplanted into the field after six months to a year. An A marina plantation can be raised by three methods: deep pitting, trenching and broadcasting of the seed. In the case of the site having a coverage of Porteresia grass, the broadcasting method is most economical and effective. The number of seeds per hectare should be about 6000 and the average rate of successful germination is about 60%. The trench method is the most appropriate when the area has degraded due to over cutting, overgrazing or accumulation of salt on the high-lying areas. The seedlings receive seawater regularly from the creek at high tide through a "˜herring bone' system of trenches. A marina seed may be planted in pits, which serve to retain the water and protect the seed from being washed away, when the areas are medium-lying and submersion occurs regularly at high tide. In all methods the success rates varies from 75 to 90% provided the site has been selected correctly. An alternative method of protecting seeds of A marina is by covering the planted seed with a plastic pot, with its top opened for light and air. After eight days, when germination has taken place, the pot is removed and reused. This effectively protects the seeds from being washed away until the roots have begun to form. The propagules of Rhizophora mucronata and Ceriops tagal are long and thin and can be planted directly into the field. However, for planting these species under special conditions container saplings may also be raised in an inter-tidal nursery. The size of a container plant nursery is normally 15 m by 15 m, which is large enough to allow beds to be prepared containing some 30,000 plants. Such nurseries are protected by an earthen embarkment against wind and water currents but with an inlet and outlet for natural irrigation by the tide.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Innovative planting and nursery techniques have been developed, and over 6000 hectares of degraded land has now been rehabilitated through the establishment of mangrove plantations. Although four species of mangroves--and a few exotic species with value in the local economy--were planted, Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mucronata constitute about 95% of the artificial plantation in the delta.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
The mangrove forests serve the functions of coastline stabilization and protection of ports against natural disasters. They also form an integral component of the economy of coastal communities, providing fuel wood, fodder and various other products. In addition to these direct uses, mangroves constitute a significant part of the productivity base of several important fisheries. Pakistan has a large and lucrative prawn fishery, generating annual revenues of around USD 60 million. An estimated 70% of the Pakistan prawn fishery is dependent on mangroves. The situation is similar with respect to fish. Around 155 species of fish have been recorded from the mangroves of Pakistan, many of them of commercial importance. The export of marine fish, shrimp, lobsters and crabs help the national economy earn Rs.2.2 billion annually, besides providing employment and livelihood to more than 100,000 people associated with the fishing industry. If the mangroves are degraded, much of the 250,000 tons of fish caught off the Sindh Coast will be at risk. Therefore, restoration is crucial to the long-term success and viability of Pakistan's coastal economies.

Key Lessons Learned

In terms of managing relatively pristine environments, this is no longer possible in Pakistan. The ecosystems represented are still significant and unique, both in terms of size and in the ecological services they provide, but they are nevertheless stressed by natural and man-made forces. Under such circumstances, ‘wise use’ means finding ways and means of mitigating such forces, and ‘helping’ the ecosystem to adapt without losing its essential character.

It has to be recognized that environmental stresses are inevitable. In the context of the Indus Delta, the reality is that the Indus is not the river it once was. Population pressures will further increase the demand for drinking, industrial and agricultural water supplies. The project should therefore look towards developing a strategy with this in mind; e.g. by planting species or strains which appear to have greater salt tolerance, and by concentrating planting efforts in areas where there is likely to be more freshwater and nutrient availability.

It is also important to provide local users with non-destructive economic uses of the resource–e.g. honey production, fuelwood production, appropriate shrimp culture, and wildlife tourism–as well as encouraging the use of alternative sources of fuelwood and fodder.

Long-Term Management

Any sustainable ecosystem management initiative must have the support of the local population which depends upon the resource. Alongside the forestry programme, therefore, a community development programme is being set up as part of the Korangi Ecosystem Project. One example, which the project is currently testing, is the production of mangrove honey. If honey production in the mangroves is viable during the flowering season, which occurs at the same time as the slack fishing season, an alternative source of income can be promoted. This will have two benefits: (a) it will increase the awareness of the usefulness of the mangroves, and (b) pressure on fish stocks may be reduced.

Another component of the forestry programme is social forestry. This has the objective of taking pressure off the mangroves by providing alternative trees for fruit, fodder and fuelwood for local villagers. Through IUCN, a mass scale planting programme of mangrove species was launched in the coastal villages. Soils in these villages are rather saline, and the production of fuelwood and fodder from mangroves may be higher than from alternative trees.

Early on it became clear that the fundamental issue about the long-term survival of the mangroves in the Indus Delta is the availability of freshwater, silt and nutrients from the river. As a follow-up to this, the project is developing a study to investigate freshwater balances in several different creek areas in the Delta and compare the mangrove cover and density. This may help to answer the fundamental question of how much freshwater the mangroves need and to thus ensure the selection of viable sites for replanting.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

Funding has been provided through The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the
Sindh Forest Department (SFD).

Other Resources

The World Conservation Union — Pakistan

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact