Hyderabad, Sindh: 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 human right that must be protected equally for all people, in all places.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum PFF organized 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 is being built, despite the fact there is no more water available in the river systems of the country.
There is no operational criterion for Chashma Jhelum Link Canal and Taunsa Barrage. There should be consensus on set criteria to avert differences by small provinces. He pointed out that the growers have changed priorities and replaced food production with producing cash crops, which may cause food insecurity.
He said this is the reason that Pakistan imports food products from other countries. “We should adopt multi dimensional approach to utilize flood water efficiently,” he said, adding that increasing water logging is another problem, which has affected 65 per cent fertile land in the province of Sindh.
PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said dam construction is the part of global politics. There is a strong lobbying group, which have investors. Dam building industry has become a lucrative business for dame builders, investors, politicians and consultants.
He said only 21 rivers out of total 292 rivers in the world, including River Indus reach 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 block most big river systems around the globe; which is equal to 15 percent of the world’s annual freshwater runoff.
He said the deltaic communities have 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, specially Indus Delta the dam industry is impacting further the life and livelihoods of hundreds of people living in Thatta and Badin districts.
Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party STPP 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 have 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 MAF carrying a silt load of about 440 million tons passed through Indus to the Arabian Sea.
Awami Jamhoori Party AJP leader Abrar Qazi, Zulfiqar Shah of PILER, Mustafa Baloch of Strengthening Participatory Organisation SPO, Dr Dodo Maheri, General Secretary Sindh United Party SUP, Senior Journalist Ishaq Magrio, Saeed Baloch, Jameel Junejo, Mustafa Meerani, Gulab Shah, Ayoub Shar of PMLN and others also spoke.