Coastal economy, the whipping boy of nature, remains off the govt radar

May 29, 2020

HYDERABAD: Fishermen aiming to make last net-casting trips to catch whatever they can before the annual ban on fishing -from June to July- are right now stranded by choppy waters amid dust storms,...

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HYDERABAD: Fishermen aiming to make last net-casting trips to catch whatever they can before the annual ban on fishing -from June to July- are right now stranded by choppy waters amid dust storms, which are forcing majority of crews to avoid moving their boats to the open sea for their own good.

Currently, coastal people are experiencing rough sea weather phenomenon, dust storms and heat waves, which have not only ruined newly cultivated crops, but have also pushed small boat crews to avoid moving to the open sea for usual fishing trips.

Gulab Shah, a community activist from Keti Bunder, Thatta district said,” The sea is rough nowadays and majority of boats, which were preparing to resume their fishing activities after Eid-ul-Fitr, are now anchored at their traditional jetties aimlessly, waiting for the weather conditions to normalise”.

Besides this, he said, farmers had also lost standing Paan farms, newly cultivated cotton crop and vegetables like ridge gourd, bitter gourd, pumpkin, and guar to powerful dusty storms.

“There is salinity all around in coastal area, while dust storms have brought brackish dirt from barren lands to the agriculture farms, causing soil infertility everywhere. In result farmers are losing their crops, paying the price for the authorities’ disregard to the situation,” Shah said adding, “In some areas, local farmers, to their dismay, have also detected diseases at early stage of cotton crops after dust storms”.

Growers preparing to develop nurseries for the next immediate paddy crop at their lands were also hit hard by the rough winds, leaving them in helpless situation.

Noor Muhammad Thahimor from Jati, Sujawal district said,” Only a small number of courageous boat crews move to nearby creeks for fishing to feed their families. Otherwise, many boats are still anchored at their jetties, waiting the seawaters to calm down.

He said the heat wave and dust storms had forced community people to stay home or take shelter under trees.

He quoted reports coming from the vicinity show that dusty storm has also damaged makeshift shelters, leaving poor families to live in the open.

Thahimor resides in the area, which was hit by devastating cyclone 02A and had seen destruction and displacement. After this, he said whenever our community elders observed low depression in the seawater, they understood something was not right.

Shahzado Otho, a community activist from Kharo Chhan said, “It is a normal phenomenon that usually happens during May, June, and July and sometimes it continues till August and September, depending on the weather. However, this year it seems above normal and both, farmers and fishermen seem uncomfortable due to strong winds and rough sea, which have affected livelihood activities of a large number of coastal people”.

Presently, only the huge fishing boats are having a party out there without awhile others are anchored to safety but without any catch.

The fishermen always experience two-month ban on fishing starts from June to July, which always forces hundreds of thousands of people to stay idle at home without work for the period -sometimes it goes up to August and September, depending on weather.

But this year, the community people expect the government may exclude them from imposing ban on fishing, as they are already facing hardships due to lockdown following coronavirus pandemic.

Saeed Baloch, who is associated with Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and is general secretary Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS) Employees Union, said, “Almost all the community people are demanding the government to avoid imposing ban on fishing this year, because they have already faced hardships”.

Asif Bhatti, a leader of Native Indigenous Fishermen Association (Nifa) based at Bhit island, Karachi, said, “We have a clear stance as usual that the government must clarify the ban”.

For example, Bhatti cited notification being issued every year in this season, which shows that fishermen refrain from catching only three species of shrimps because of its breeding season to avoid extinction of the commercial species.

“Influential people always violate the ban and continue fishing, while those, who abide by the law always face hardships,”.

He said the government authorities should clarify in notification that which species are banned and not to be fished. “Let the community people continue catching other fish species other than shrimps.

This should be checked and monitored at the major market Karachi Fisheries Harbour (KFH) and seafood processing zones set up there to avoid violation and protect the natural resources,” he advised.

Coastal community people are facing disasters one after another in the shape of pandemic, rough weather, cyclone, unjustified ban on fishing activities for two months and now the emerging threat of locust attack.

When the people of entire country are crying against locust attack, coastal people are also keeping an eye on the menace to avoid an emerging disaster.

Community activists said it was quite recently the authorities had stopped the flow of river water downstream Kotri, depriving the islanders of their water share.

Otherwise, the coastal communities, after receiving river water earlier in the month of March were on cloud nine, hoping to reap benefits in terms of increasing fish catch, storing water in makeshift reservoirs for drinking purposes, and recharging underground water level.

The elderly coastal community members say the river water always checks the rise of sea level and the also reduces the possibility of intrusion. They were expecting to see the fresh river water flowing as it would curb the sea intrusion and save villages and fertile lands, besides rehabilitating mangroves forests.

Many people celebrated the early arrival of fresh water in early March this year through the river to meet its ultimate end, delta. But after two months the situation has changed, threatening the communities to face problems.

Coastal community people in Keti Bunder, Kharo Chhan, and Shah Bunder in Thatta and Sujawal districts have expressed concerns over the stopping of river water flowing downstream Kotri and said the action was aimed at depriving the islanders and marine ecology of their water share.

They urged the authorities to ensure release of river water downstream Kotri immediately so the community people may heave a sigh of relief after long time.

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