Participants representing civil society, water experts, researchers, activists, environmentalists, politicians and deltaic and fishing communities expressed concern over the ecological destruction of Indus River and Indus Delta and demanded restoration of the natural flow of Indus.
Speaking at a ‘national water conference’ on Wednesday at a local hotel, they declared that “water is a fundamental element of life on the land, and thus access to water is a human right that must be protected equally for all people, in all places.” Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) organised the conference, in which speakers shared their opinions in the two sessions ‘technical and political’, which attracted renowned experts to share their thoughts on the occasion.
PPP leader Taj Haider, quoting irrigation expert ANG Abbasi, who designed an assessment report for Musharraf government, said Bhasha dam was being built, despite the fact there was no more water available in the river systems of the country. “There is no operational criterion for Chashma Jehlum Link Canal and Taunsa Barrage. There should be consensus on set criteria to avert differences by small provinces.” He pointed out that growers had changed priorities and replaced food production with producing cash crops, which might cause food insecurity.
He said that was the reason that Pakistan imported food products from other countries. “We should adopt multi dimensional approach to utilise flood water efficiently,” he said, adding that increasing water logging was another problem, which had affected 65 percent fertile land in the province of Sindh.
PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said dam construction was the part of global politics. “There is a strong lobbying group, which has investors and dam building industry has become a lucrative business for dam builders, investors, politicians and consultants.”
He said only 21 rivers out of total 292 rivers in the world, including River Indus reached downstream or their tail-ends. Otherwise, majority of them are dead, as none of them reaches tail-end, because of blockades of their flows. He said that about 50,000 large dams now blocked most big river systems around the globe; which was equal to 15 percent of the world’s annual freshwater runoff.
He said the deltaic communities had first right on water and the government should ensure proper supply of water through the River Indus. The sea level rise may engulf entire districts of Thatta and Badin. The dams change temperature of water, which cause destruction of ecology. Dam industry is active in the world, blocking streams of natural rivers, impacting badly the communities, living in tail end areas. Dams cause the degradation of the natural flow of the rivers.
Similarly, when we see in Sindh, especially Indus Delta the dam industry is impacting further the life and livelihoods of hundreds of people living in Thatta and Badin districts. Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party Chairman Dr Qadir Magsi rejected the arguments of the successive governments regarding dam building and barrages, which he said have caused degradation of fertile land, forests and affecting the marine life. He said all the Sindhi nationalist parties had common understanding about dams and water share of the province.
Experiencing that before the development of an irrigation system on the River Indus, they said, the entire flow of the Indus passed through Sindh’s plains to the Arabian Sea, culminating into 17 branches called creeks and forming the seventh largest delta of the world. An annual flow of over 180 million acre feet carrying a silt load of about 440 million tons passed through Indus to the Arabian Sea.
Awami Jamhoori Party leader Abrar Qazi, Zulfiqar Shah of PILER, Mustafa Baloch of Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Dr Dodo Maheri, General Secretary Sindh United Party, Senior Journalist Ishaq Magrio, Saeed Baloch, Jameel Junejo, Mustafa Meerani, Gulab Shah, Ayoub Shar of PML-N and others also spoke.