Islamabad: The Balochistan government has launched an investigation into the coral bleaching near Churna Island reported for the first time in Pakistan. The study and inquiry has been ordered by Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (BEPA) in an attempt to protect Pakistan’s marine biodiversity. The local authorities sprung into action after a Pakistani diver Khizar Sharif recently noticed serious bleaching of coral – an alarming sign of marine life degradation. WWF-Pakistan described the phenomenon as “a grave threat to the coastal biodiversity in Pakistan.”
Study launched first time to assess coral bleaching
Balochistan EPA has formed an environmental technical team, under the supervision of Engineer Muhammad Khan Utmankhail, which also includes professors from Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences. For the first time a chemical and biological study is being conducted for assessment of factors influencing the coral bleaching in Pakistan, said Mohammad Khan.
BEPA has sent its team of experts to collect samples for comprehensive research and investigation into bleaching of the coral reef in Churna area, officials said, adding: “All mitigation efforts will be put in place to protect marine biodiversity.” The experts said that they would first collect water samples from different locations and then prepare an analytical report. The findings and recommendations from the latest study would be immediately sent to relevant organisations working on climate change, aquatic life and ecology and would help the provincial government protect the coral reef and marine life, experts said.
Demand to make Churna Island a protected area
Churna Island is a small inhabited island of Pakistan located 9km west of Hub River along Balochistan coast in the Arabian Sea. Environmental experts have called for measures to protect the rich biodiversity and pristine environment of Churna Island by declaring it a marine protected area and protect it from multiple environmental threats including plastic pollution, disposal of untreated sewage, use of harmful fishing nets, overfishing and rise in temperatures.
What triggers coral bleaching?
Once thriving coral reefs are now suffering, and dying at alarming rates globally. The leading cause of coral bleaching is climate change as the weather is getting hotter. Warming waters, pollution, overfishing, and other human activities are believed to be killing coral reefs. “Climate change, rising sea temperatures and industrial activity” are believed to be the leading causes of coral bleaching in Pakistan, says Muhammad Khan. BEPA Assistant Director Imran Saeed said that while there is a proper monitoring system to study the impacts, “it is impossible for industries to grow and not disturb the natural environment.”
What is coral bleaching and why it matters?
Corals that resemble plants are actually animals, composed of colonies of many identical individual animals called polyps. Environmental changes such as abnormally warm or cool temperatures, light, or nutrients, can cause the corals to stress out and die. Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet on which people and wildlife depend. They support an estimated 25 per cent of all marine life