Dawn – Threats to Indus Delta highlighted

Shazia Hasan

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 15 October 2018. “All over the world, rivers naturally flow into the sea. But out here it is the sea flowing into the Indus Delta,” said environmentalist and researcher Nasir A Panhwar during his talk and presentation titled “Survival of the Indus Delta” at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences on Saturday.

“The Indus Delta is a unique coastal system where the sea and the river meet, where the soil was very fertile due to the accumulation of silt from the river for thousands of years.

But after the diversion of the upstream water there the amount of silt has become less while bringing up various threats to the delta,” he said, while explaining that the delta included 17 major creaks starting from the Gizri Creek to Sir Creek.

“Due to the diversion there is a less fresh water flow in the delta now and so there is an intrusion of sea, a man made disaster,” he said. “Meanwhile, the rise in sea level is due to climate change, which is again man-made if we go into the depth of it,” he added.

“And because of the sea intrusion, the land is losing its fertility. The falling of the level of ground water has hurt agriculture. Farmers used to grow red rice here, which is no longer possible. Because of the non-availability of fresh water, the subsoil water if there is any is brackish,” he said.

“Fisheries too have been hurt as grazing land for livestock has also become scarce and the animals had to migrate. With the animals leaving, humans too have moved due to an increased lack of livelihood putting added pressure on urban centres.

Also frequency of cyclones and tsunami have made the poor people living in the area even more vulnerable,” he pointed out.

Pakistan is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. “We do sign but then we also forget,” said Panhwar. “The Indus Delta is also a signified Ramsar site which should have been taken special care of as it has national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and an important eco system,” he reminded.

“Another harm done to the Indus Delta,” the researcher said, “was the destruction of the mangrove forests, which provided a natural shield against cyclones and tsunamis along with being the breading ground for shrimp and several species of sea life,” he said.

Among the researcher’s recommendations were revisiting the water accord of 1991 by incorporating the environmental flow concept and declaring the Indus Delta as the fifth shareholder of water distribution, besides the four provinces.

He also said the Government of Pakistan must establish an Indus Delta rehabilitation programme with an independent body to implement it. The government should also ensure at least 10 million acre feet water down stream Kotri Barrage immediately till such a time as the precise amount of water is accessed through a detailed study.

A comprehensive assessment of losses must be carried out and communities provided adequate compensation and a development plan should be launched while recognising the communities’ rights over all the natural resources.

Earlier, Kaleem Durrani of Irtiqa said that despite all its problems, whether political or social, Sindh had never given up. “History is reminiscent of the fact that Sindh has always stood up to challenges dealt with them through the in-depth knowledge of its own people,” he said.


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