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February 2, 2011

‘Indus dolphins died of poisonous substance used by fishermen’


February 2, 2011

A preliminary laboratory report has revealed that three Indus dolphins died of “chemical substance” allegedly thrown by fishermen in the River Indus at Guddu-Sukkur point for getting excessive catch, while the lab report of three other dead dolphins is expected to be received on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Minister for Wildlife Dr Daya Ram Essarani.
Addressing an emergent press conference at his office in Sindh Secretariat on Tuesday evening, the minister said that post-mortem examination of the dead dolphins and samples of water revealed that “running water” of River Indus between Guddu and Sukkur spread over 190-200 kilometers contained “chemicals”. The composition of chemicals would be ascertained later when final report was submitted.
The minister claimed that fishermen had thrown chemicals in the water for “quick results” and excessive catch by “misusing” Benazir Cards given to them by the government after ending contract system in fishing.
A joint team comprising representatives of Wildlife, Fisheries and Environment departments and WWF raided the spot, seized fish catch and detained three fishermen who have been booked under the concerned law. The team would conduct extensive patrolling in the area to prevent use of chemicals for fishing purposes. Warnings have been issued to fishermen, and their representative body - Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum - has been asked to persuade the fishermen to follow the prescribed rules or else fishing would be banned there. Dr. Daya Ram disclosed that District Coordination Officer Sukkur has also been instructed to prevent dumping of toxic waste into the River Indus by installing treatment plant there.
The minister said that an Indus Dolphin was found trapped in Naseer Canal on January 15, which was rescued and brought back to the Indus. But the first death of a dolphin was reported at Ali Wahan Bund on January 24, which was followed by the death of five more dolphins till

January 30 at different places.
The wildlife minister estimated that a total of 834 dolphins were being found between Guddu and Sukkur.
About peacock mortality in Thar, the minister said that so far only two peacocks had died in Mithi and the report to this effect was being “exaggerated” by certain section of media.
Dr Essarani said that one peacock was found dead while another was found sick, which died during treatment. Veterinary doctors’ team sent to the area reported that peacocks suffered from throat infection and eye swelling. The doctors were of the considered view that these two deaths of peacocks were the result of “bacterial or viral infection” and ruled out the possibility of contagious disease.
The wildlife minister said that thousands of peacocks have been inhibiting in Thar, which he termed a beauty of Sindh. He said that the government was making concerted efforts to control “illegal trapping” of peacocks there.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Fisheries Zahid Ali Bhurghari told the media that three fishermen have been detained under Fisheries Act-1980 while three other fishermen have been shown as absconders in the FIR. Director General Fisheries Ghulam Mohammed Mahar, who led the joint team, said that they have seized 15 maunds of catch from the held fishermen.
Bhurghari believed that using of such chemical for excessive fish catch may also adversely affect the human health. He said that the sewage of Sukkur was being dumped in the River Indus, which was also affecting fish there.
He said that the fishermen were given licences but the usage of chemical substance and illegal nets for fishing would not be allowed. The fisheries minister disclosed that around 10,500 cards have been issued to fishermen in the name of Benazir Bhutto, of which about 150 cards have been given to fishermen in Guddu-Sukkur alone for fishing in an area spreading over 150-200 kilometers. He pointed out that if the case was proved against the fishermen, they could be imprisoned for six months and fined up to Rs10,000.
Zahid revealed that the fishermen have been given one week ultimatum to avoid using chemicals or else their fishing licences would be cancelled. He said, if need be, a summary could be moved to Chief Minister Sindh to impose ban on fishing in the area where Indus Dolphins were located.

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