STAFF REPORT KHI: Clean environment along sea shores and at islands is prerequisite to provide safe, secure and nesting place for the turtles especially during the ensuing breeding season as this species is increasingly endangered with the rising sea water pollution and amount of litter at the shore. There is a grave need to create awareness among the sea shore visitors to avoid dropping food wrappers, shopping bags or other waste items as it badly affects the water quality as well as environment which, too, affects the whole ecosystem.

During the past some time, efforts to protect the endangered sea turtles along the coasts of Sindh and Balochistan have received a boost that could ensure cleaner sea sides significantly.

Most recently, the IUCN Pakistan in collaboration with International Centre Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has launched a USAID-funded Saving the Endangered Sea Turtles project at a ceremony in Karachi, which was attended by a large number of participants representing government, civil society, private sector and academic organizations.

The project was jointly organized to mark the World Turtle Day and International Day for Biological Diversity 2014 at Sandspit Beach Karachi.

The event commenced with Beach Cleaning Competition at the Sandspit Beach involving children from the five schools of the coastal areas. During this activity, approximately two tons of litter was collected and disposed of to create safe nesting place for the turtles during the ensuing breeding season.

Later, a turtle quiz programme was conducted to create awareness amongst the children about the turtles and the threats facing them. The event was attended by representatives of the Sindh Wildlife Department, WWF-Pakistan; ICI Pakistan; Fisherfolks of Kaka Pir village; and Women Moti Mala Tanzeem.

“Turtles are an important part of our biodiversity. The Sandspit and Hawksbay beaches are amongst the 11 most important turtle nesting grounds in the world. Around 6,000 Green Turtles used to visit these beaches during the breeding seasons, but their numbers have dwindled over the years due to various threats – including entanglement in fishing nets, habitat degradation and littering of the nesting beaches. Leftover food at the beaches results in increase of predators population that hunts on the hatched baby turtles while crawling towards the sea,” said Ghulam Qadir Shah, Mangrove for the Future Programme, National Coordinator in his opening remarks on the occasion.

On this occasion, in his message Dr. David Molden, the Director General ICIMOD related to the International Day for Biodiversity, stressed upon reinforcing global commitments for biodiversity conservation to ensure continuity of provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services of biodiversity resources.

Speaking on the occasion, Amar Guriro, President, National Council of the Environmental Journalists (NCEJ) emphasized on increasing the environmental reporting in the mainstream media.

Naveed Soomro, Manager Wetland Centre, WWF-P, highlighted the need to conserve sea turtles and other biodiversity resources.

IUCN Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar said, “This is not our first attempt to conserve these endangered species. IUCN has actively been engaged in the conservation, awareness-raising and monitoring of sea turtles and other marine species such as dolphins, whales, migratory birds along Sindh and Balochistan coasts”

The chief guest on the occasion, Rukhsana Saleem, Secretary, Climate Change Division, assured her full support to the cause.

The UN General Assembly has marked 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States. Accordingly, the UN is focusing on the theme Island Biodiversity for this year. Due to their isolation, islands harbor a unique array of biodiversity, and many island species are endemic – they are found nowhere else on earth. Islands thus make a substantial contribution to global biodiversity. However, they are extremely vulnerable to loss of species diversity.

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