MQM files motion to protect marine turtles from light pollution

Our Correspondent
Friday, May 24, 2024

On the occasion of World Turtle Day on Thursday, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MPA Taha Ahmed submitted a resolution to the Provincial Assembly of Sindh highlighting the importance of safeguarding turtle habitats from light pollution.

During the PA session Ahmed also discussed the novel issue of hazardous white lights disturbing marine turtles and their habitats along the coast of Karachi.

He asked the provincial government about the hazardous white LED lights installed along Mauripur Road from Machhli Chowk to Kanupp, adjacent to the Hawkesbay Beach, which are endangering marine turtle habitats.

The World Bank had funded the road rehabilitation project under the provincial government’s Competitive & Liveable City of Karachi (CLICK) project. The gentle slopes and sandy textures of the Hawkesbay, Turtle and Sandspit beaches are ideal for turtle nesting. However, the harsh white LED lights can act as a significant disruptor.

The excessive use of artificial outdoor light is a particularly significant threat for nesting and hatchling turtles. Artificial light interferes with the navigation capabilities of female turtles as they choose their nesting sites, and also affects hatchlings as they make their way to the beach and out to the sea. Ahmed also brought to the PA’s attention the withdrawal of the WB’s funding for the rehabilitation of the second phase of Mauripur Road due to the installation of these hazardous white LED lights.

He told the House how the Mauripur Road Rehabilitation Project’s phase-I, funded by the WB, had installed white LED lights, which are especially hazardous for marine turtles during their hatching season (September to mid-February). The fishing community living in the area, he said, is dependent on marine habitat, in which turtles play a crucial role.

It is pertinent to mention here that all marine turtles are safeguarded under Schedule-II of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972. The wildlife department has notified all the beach huts at the Hawkesbay, Turtle and Sandspit beaches to switch off lights after sunset, especially during the turtle hatching season.

Ahmed highlighted in his resolution how Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his sister Bakhtawar had been vocal about the life of endangered marine turtles in the past.

In December 2019 the PPP chief and his sister had released 300 green turtles at the same hatchling site, and had spoken about preserving and protecting endangered species.

The MPA said the WB has now withdrawn its funding from the second phase of the Mauripur Road Rehabilitation Project, which runs parallel to the Turtle Beach, due to the use of hazardous white LED lights.

He asked the relevant minister for clarification on the issue. The minister said he was unaware of the issue, and would get back to him after getting information.

The MQM lawmaker also highlighted how the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had submitted a misleading environmental & social management plan (ESMP) report to the WB for the Mauripur Road Rehabilitation Project, as the report had not mentioned the presence of the Sindh Wildlife Marine Turtle Conservation office near the project site.

Later, when this was highlighted to the WB, the financial institution withdrew funding for the second phase of the project, which was to be constructed adjacent to the Turtle Beach. Additionally, the WB asked the KMC, via CLICK, to change the existing white lights to amber.

Taha demanded the immediate replacement of all white LED street lights installed along Mauripur Road with red or amber lights, as suggested by the WB, to mitigate the adverse impact on marine turtles.

He demanded conducting a thorough investigation into the submission of a misleading ESMP report by the KMC, and to engage with the WB to rehabilitate the second phase of Mauripur Road, ensuring they do not instal hazardous white LED lights but instead opt for amber or red lights lower to the ground.

He also demanded the issuance of strict directives to all beach hut owners and commercial establishments near the marine turtle hatchery to turn off lights (or keep them on indoors) after sunset, especially during the marine turtle nesting and hatching seasons.

He called for the enforcement of the existing laws and regulations, such as the wildlife protection ordinance, to protect marine turtles and their habitats, and to empower marine turtle game watchers, who currently work with extremely meagre resources.

The MPA also highlighted how the Karachi Development Authority is constructing the Peoples Marine Walk project without conducting the mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) near Sea View.

He said the project documents show that LED lights would be installed on its pathways. “As part of this resolution, we demand that these lights be changed to red or amber, and that an immediate EIA be carried out for the project.”

He also demanded collaborating with NGOs, such as The Citizenry, the Climate Action Centre and WWF-Pakistan, to conduct public awareness campaigns on the importance of marine turtle conservation, and the hazards of light pollution on marine turtles and other species.