Pakistan designates eight new Ramsar sites
The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to announce the Government of Pakistans designation of eight new Wetlands of International Importance, with a total of 222,246 hectares, bringing that Partys total number of Ramsar sites to 16. The new sites include an extensive mangrove forest extending along Gawater Bay on the Arabian Sea to the Iranian border, and contiguous with Irans Govater Bay and Hur-e-Bahu Ramsar site; an uninhabited island off the coast, as well as other sandy beach coastal sites, which are important for endangered Olive Ridley and Green turtles; a 170-km stretch of the Indus River that is vital for the survival of the once-common Indus dolphin; and much more.
IUCN-Pakistan and WWF-Pakistan have both been very active, not only in biodiversity studies and management planning for these areas, but also in technical preparations for these Ramsar designations.
Astola (Haft Talar) Island. 10/05/01. Balochistan. 5,000 ha. 25°07N 063°52E. An uninhabitated island about six km in length, some 25 km south of the desert coast of Balochistan. It is the only significant offshore island along the north coast of the Arabian Sea, and as such maintains the genetic and ecological diversity of the area. The endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and possibly the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbracata) nest on the beach at the foot of cliffs, and it is a very important area for endemic reptiles such as the viper Echis carinatus astoli. The island is said to have an aura of mystery and is venerated by Hindus; there are architectural remains of an ancient temple to the Hindu goddess Kali Devi, as well as a prayer yard constructed for a Muslim saint associated with oceans. It serves as a base for fishermen between September and May, but is unfrequented during the period of rough seas and high tides. Feral cats originally introduced by fishermen to control the endemic rodent population pose an increasing threat to birds nesting and breeding sites. Ramsar site no. 1063.
Sandy beach and cliffs, Astola (Haft Talar) Island (photo: Najam Khurshid)
Hub (Hab) Dam. 10/05/01. Sindh, Balochistan. 27,000 ha. 25°15N 067°07E. A large water storage reservoir constructed in 1981 on the Hub River on the arid plains north of Karachi. The reservoir supplies water for irrigation in Lasbella District and domestic and drinking water for the city of Karachi. It is an important staging and wintering area for an appreciable number of waterbirds and contains a variety of fish species which increase in abundance during periods of high water. The Mahseer (Tor putitora), an indigenous riverine fish found in the Hub River, grows up to 2m in length and provides for excellent angling. Recent consecutive years of low summer rainfall have reduced the water level. WWF launched a wetland visitors centre on World Wetlands Day 1999. Ramsar site no. 1064.
Indus Dolphin Reserve. 10/05/01. Sindh. 125,000 ha. 28°01N, 069°15E. A 170 km stretch of the River Indus between the Sukkar and Guddu barrages, providing a home for the 500 remaining individuals of the formerly common Indus dolphin Platanista indi. The site is considered essential for the survival of this CITES Appendix I and IUCN Red List species endemic to Pakistan. Originally sea creatures, the Indus dolphins adapted to river life as the Indian subcontinent rose. Platanista minor, a blind cetacean endemic to this river, is also present in smaller numbers. The area is also home to the historical Sadhu bella Hindu shrine and Satinjo Astan Muslim graveyard. Ramsar site no. 1065.
Indus Dolphin Reserve
Jiwani Coastal Wetland. 10/05/01. Balochistan. 4,600 ha. 25°05N 060°48E. Located along Gawater Bay around the delta of the Dasht River, a very significant area of mangrove forests extending westward to the Iranian frontier, contiguous with Irans Govater Bay and Hur-e-Bahu Ramsar site. The site is a particularly important nesting ground for endangered Olive Ridley and Green turtles, especially at four moderately wide and gently sloping sandy beaches in the eastern part of the site. Fishing is the most important human activity, practiced by clans that have migrated from Iran and from farther east in Pakistan as well as descendants of traders and soldiers from North and East Africa and the Gulf. Provincial plans to grant fishing concessions to a US industrial fishing firm and offshore drilling rights to a foreign oil company are viewed with concern by conservation authorities. Ramsar site no. 1066.
Jiwani Coastal Wetland
Jubho Lagoon. 10/05/01. Sindh. 706 ha. 24°20N 068°40E. A large shallow brackish lagoon with associated mudflats and marshes, important for wintering waterbirds (particularly Greater and Lesser Flamingos and Dalmatian Pelicans) and for commercial fisheries. The site is privately owned by local inhabitants, who practice fishing and livestock grazing. WWF launched a wetland visitors centre on World Wetlands Day 1999. Ramsar site no. 1067.
Miani Hor. 10/05/01. Balochistan. 55,000 ha. 25°24N 066°06E. A large shallow sea bay and estuarine system with several low-lying islands and extensive mangrove swamps and intertidal mud flats, separated from the adjacent Sonmiani Bay in the Arabian Sea by a broad peninsula of sand dunes. The site is the only area of Pakistans coast where three species of mangroves (Avicennia marina, Rhizophora mucronata, and Ceriops tagal) occur naturally. The Hor receives freshwater input from a number of seasonal streams rising in the hills of eastern Balochistan to the north. The site is important for large concentrations of waterbirds. Smaller fish, shrimp, and crabs are abundant and are both consumed locally and brought to market. The area is archaeologically interesting: Balakot, 16 km to the northeast, was once home to a thriving civilization which flourished around 2000 BC. Domestic waste disposal and accumulated solid waste debris (plastic bags and bottles, etc.) are growing problems. Both IUCN-Pakistan and WWF-Pakistan are very active in the region, in collaboration with local communities, and WWF launched a wetland visitors centre on World Wetlands Day 1999. Ramsar site no. 1068.
Nurri Lagoon. 10/05/01. Sindh. 2,540 ha. 24°30N 068°47E. A very shallow brackish lagoon with barren mudflats on the northern side. The site has consistently recorded very large concentrations of migratory waterbirds on a seasonal basis. Salinity and sedimentation are increasing due to the intrustion of the sea in this area. The privately-owned land provides livelihood to about 3,000-4,000 people in surrounding villages, chiefly through fisheries. Invasive species, such as Typha and occasionally Tamarix, are seen to be hindering the growth and diversity of native flora, and population pressures, including accelerating agricultural and industrial pollution, offer challenges. Ramsar site no. 1069.
Ormara Turtle Beaches. 10/05/01. Balochistan. 2,400 ha. 25°13N 064°28E. A sandy beach extending about 10 km along the shores of the Arabian Sea. The site supports a considerable number of marine turtles, particularly the endangered Olive Ridley and Green turtles and possibly the Hawksbill turtle as well. Because the area falls in the subduction zone of the Indian Ocean tectonic plate moving northward, clusters of mud volcanos have developed along the shore, where gas-charged water escapes to the surface. The vegetation is composed of salt-tolerant and arid area plants which grow in very harsh, freshwater-scarce conditions. Migratory waterbirds visit the site but not in significant numbers. Subsistence and commercial fishing is the primary economic, social, and cultural activity of the local communities, and drying of fish is an important source of employment. Accumulations of plastic debris along the coast cause significant problems, as does the capture of turtles for export. Ramsar site no. 1070.