KARACHI - The Secretary Environment and Alternate Energy Department, Mir Hussain Ali has said that Sindh is facing numerous environmental challenges.Speaking at a Conservation Award ceremony organised by Partnership Fund, Indus for All Programme of WWF-Pakistan here at a local hotel on Friday, he said that particularly estuarine and coastal areas of Sindh were neglected. He said that these areas had their own ecological, economical and social significance. He said that over a period of time, awareness about environmental issues had been increased and awareness was the first step in this regard. He hoped that in next step more constructive and visible initiatives would be undertaken. He said that for coastal areas, so far only minor interventions like community mobilisation had been undertaken by both government and non-government supported projects. Ali highlighted the need for addressing major issues in coastal areas, such as vulnerability of the area towards cyclones due to climate change. He said that efforts need to be taken to decrease vulnerability of the geographical area and people living in the area. He said that due cut back of fresh water from River Indus, rate of sea intrusion has increased manifold and effects are very visible. He said that according to World Bank study 15 per cent of GDP of Sindh is lost due to environmental degradation. “We should not close our hands and eyes and allows the sea to take up our lands. Instead of development of coastal highway, focus should be given to development of local communities,” he added. The Secretary Forest and Wildlife Department, Mushtaque Ali Memon said that Partnership Fund of Indus for All Programme, the WWF has supported conservation and livelihood initiatives. He said that it had also played a very important role to build alliances between communities, environmental and resource conservation groups and government departments. He said that Forest and Wildlife Department had closely worked with this programme. Senior Chief Planning and Development Department Fazal Ahmed Nizamani said that achievements of partnership fund supported projects would go a long way towards protection of natural resources and biodiversity. He said that government department could scale up these projects within their given mandate.WWF Deputy Director General Dr Ejaz Ahmed said that mangrove eco system was indicator of helath of river. He said that survival of mangroves ecosystem was directly linked to flows of Indus River. He said that five year Indus for All Programme supported by Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands focused in four priority areas in Indus Eco region, while through small grants programme, grant was provided to NGOs, government departments and academia for the conservation projects. Programme Coordinator Indus for All Programme Nasir Ali Panhwar said that 50 year vision (2005-2055) for Indus eco region conservation has been developed. He said that under Partnership Fund 54 conservation projects has been supported in four thematic areas including conservation of species, conservation of natural habitats, livelihood support and alternate energy. He said that 80 per cent projects were implemented in lower Indus basin, while twenty percent in upper Indus basin. He hoped that based on success of projects other stakeholders would take benefit and further scale up and replicate the projects. He said that publication titled “Along the Indus River: Engaging Communities, Sustaining Environment” presents 11 case studies of successful projects. Fisheries Director Ghulam Mujtaba Wadhar, Majeed Mangrio, Farhan Anwar, Yaseen Rind, Muharam Keerio and others shared their experience. On this occasion, 14 partner organisations were given Indus Conservation Award.