Oct 17, 2004

Astola Island Balochistan, Pakistan's largest Island

At a distance of 25 km from the seashore of Balochistan Province in Pakistan, this is the largest islands of Pakistan. It is approximately 6 km long and 3 km wide. Administratively it is part of Pasni, a part of Gwadar District in Balochistan. It can be accessed by the motorized boats from Pasni of Gwadar District.http://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gifhttp://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gifhttp://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gif

The island consists of a large tilted plateau and a series of seven small hillocks (hence the local name "Haft Talar" or "Seven Hills"), with deep chasms and crevices, which are several feet wide. There are several natural caves and coves on the island. The south face of the island slopes off gradually whereas the north face is cliff-like with a sharp vertical drop.


Astola is used as a base for fishermen who frequently visit the Island between September and May to catch fish in general and lobster and oysters in particular. Between June and August, the Island remains free from human interference due to rough sea and high tides. On finding a small Island ideal, the fishermen decided to bring their cats along in order to rid it of its resident vermin. What they do not realize is that by doing this, they trigger a change of events that leads to destructive changes in the Island’s habitat. A few fishermen and their pet cats on a trip to Astola unwittingly can almost destroy this unique ecosystem.

Locals have given it the name "Haft Talar" meaning seven rocks but the Island appears to form a single block with an estimated height of two hundred feet at its summit. An isolated rocky area has broken away from the main block towards the south end. Given that the Island is not sheltered from the open sea, it is subject to strong wave attack during the southwest monsoons, when wave height exceeds 3.5 meters. The coastline, therefore, suffers from severe erosion.
Astola is one of the biggest offshore islands in the Arabian Sea. Possessing a unique habitat, it was identified as part of a Global 2000 eco-region. 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.
Astola is the only site along 1,000 kilometers Pakistan coast where Hawksbill turtles have been sighted. Dolphins and to a lesser extent, whales have also been reported. In fact, in December 1994, a large whale (possibly sperm whale) skeleton washed up on the shores of Ganz, Balochistan. The bones of the whale are on display in Gwadar town. Astola is also rich in corals, oysters, and important commercial fishes.
The flora and fauna are as they would have been centuries ago, but spellbinding: The natural vegetation is composed of the type able to survive arid climate. It does not only suffer from extreme drought but also from wind carrying saline particles. Salt sprays coupled with sand particles clog the respiratory mechanism of plants, affecting growth.
“Prosopis juliflora is the most significant widespread species distributed in the island. Indigofera oblongifolia and Hycium depressum are also prevalent forming large bushes. Other types of vegetation found include Sueda fruticosa, Aerua persica, and Tamarix dioca,” the experts gave these names but to me it looked like undergrowth in the form of shrubs and creepers. The island supports a large number of breeding seabirds including Larus hemprichii and several species of terns. The internationally endangered Green turtle and critically endangered Hawksbill turtle frequents the site for nesting purposes along the sandy beach threatened.

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