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Mangrove forests hold a powerful climate mitigation potential. These coastal trees remove three to five times more CO2 per hectare than upland tropical forests. This is just one reason why the project developer, Indus Delta Capital, and the Government of Sindh are committed to restoring and conserving Pakistan’s mangroves.

Since 2015, Delta Blue Carbon has been protecting and restoring tidal river channels and mangrove forests on the southeast coast of Sindh, near Karachi. With a project area spanning 350,000 hectares, Delta Blue Carbon is the world’s largest blue carbon project.

The deforestation problem

This richly diverse landscape provides critical ecosystem services. It sustains productive fisheries, serves as an important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and supports local people, many of whom make a living from collecting shellfish and crabs. More than 42,000 live within the project zone and 60 coastal villages directly depend on the mangrove forests. 

But despite the clear long-term value of the delta’s mangroves, the area has seen deforestation on a massive scale. Before the project activities started, the region was in a vicious cycle – many people lived in poverty and lacked access to education, clean energy and clean water. Faced with such deprivation, many had little choice but to cut mangroves for fuelwood or to clear coastal forests to make way for grazing. 

To counter the region’s deforestation, Delta Blue Carbon is growing mangrove saplings throughout the delta. All species used in the restoration work under the project are native to the coastal areas of Sindh.

To date, more than 90,000 hectares (of a planned 220,000) have already been planted. The project expects to remove 142 million tonnes CO2 from the atmosphere. From these efforts, it will generate more than 128.5 million high-quality, nature-based removal credits over its 60-year lifespan. 

The market-based solution

The income from carbon credit sales will be spent on addressing the underlying drivers of degradation by providing jobs, education, clean water and clean energy facilities to people in need in Karachi. Delta Blue Carbon is determined to help the area transition from a vicious, to a virtuous cycle – one in which restoring the landscape brings greater economic certainty. 

The project will create 21,000 full-time jobs. Employees will receive specialist training and capacity building for project staff, communities and local NGOs. The non-carbon benefits to local people have been valued at $134, for every tonne of carbon removed from the atmosphere.

Adaptation and mitigation

Mangroves are amongst the most productive marine ecosystems on Earth. Collectively, the wood and soil of mangrove forests along the world’s coastlines hold three billion tonnes of carbon.

Yet, mangroves provide more than pure carbon sequestration. Dense networks of mangrove roots help limit the damage caused by tsunamis and floods by reducing wave energy and shielding coastal communities from the full destructive forces of storms. Long-term, mangrove forests are also a natural barrier against coastal erosion. 

On a busy coastline like Karachi’s, mangroves’ ability to clean pollutants from the water is particularly useful. These forests are essential for maintaining water quality as they filter and trap sediments, heavy metals and other pollutants in their roots. By revitalising the delta’s coastal habitat, the project generates substantial climate change adaptation and mitigation benefits for the region.

Without Delta Blue Carbon, this restoration and conservation work would not have been possible. A lack of governmental capacity was preventing the kind of ground-up change required to transform Sindh’s mangroves. Today, we see the regeneration of Karachi’s mangrove success story as a true testament to local efforts and the power of private capital to drive environmental action.