HYDERABAD: Researchers, environmentalists, and water activists on Tuesday raised a voice to ensure the rights of River Indus by letting it flow smoothly to its ultimate end, the delta, which was not only vital to the survival of myriads of animals and plant species but also critical for agriculture and consumption.
They believe that besides provision of water to agriculture and human consumption, the river plays an important role to maintain its ecosystem.
“We have lost natural flow of the river by building dams and diversions and now it needs to be restored to save agriculture, the main source of food production.”
It was the crux of the debate on the occasion of the World Rivers Day 2020, “Changing Indus River flow and mangrove ecosystem in the delta, causes, impacts and solution.”
The event was organised jointly by Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam and WWF-Pakistan at the university premises. Coastal community people hailing from Keti Bunder and Kharo Chhan, Thatta districts, researchers, environmentalists, students and academia participated in the event.
Saeedul Islam, manager natural resource management (NRM) at WWF-Pakistan pointed out that almost all the rivers in the world were facing degradation and pollution due to many factors, mainly building dams and diversions and receiving industrial and municipal waste.
“River Indus, having sixth largest delta of the world, is also home to hundreds of thousands of species, most importantly the threatened Indus (blind) dolphin, which is fighting a war of survival due to declining river streams,” Islam said.
He said the Indus was among the 10 vulnerable rivers of the world, which had been declared as polluted because of the industrial and municipal waste flowing into it directly.
“In case the delta is depleted it will have severe economic impacts on communities in terms of their livelihoods,” he said.
“With per capita water consumption increasing every day the water scarcity is also on the rise and meeting the needs of agriculture and growing population is becoming more and more difficult,” Islam said.
Suleman G Abro, President Sindh Agriculture Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation (Safwco), talked on water governance in the country.
“The tail-end people, including those living in coastal areas, have equal right to the river to cultivate agriculture crops,” Abro said.
“We do not have any technology to store rain water, which sometimes creates flood-like situations.”
For example, he said the tail end area people were experiencing rains and floods, which caused destruction and displacement all around.
He said there are findings that the fresh water canals have arsenic in some areas, causing human diseases and environmental degradation, killing many valuable species.
Prof Ismail Kumbhar, a focal person of SAU said leading rivers in different countries had economic roles. “We are losing freshwater resources and fertile lands together because of depleting fresh water sources,” he said.
Prof Kumbhar also talked on natural rivers, which have been blocked because of development, causing urban and rural floods during the recent rain spells.
He said earlier there were old rivers, which used to take rain flood water to the sea through different creeks. “Now these old waterways are blocked, leaving communities in a helpless situation.”
Kumbhar urged the participants to assist policymakers for policy designing to save the river and its ecosystem.
The speakers pointed out that due to increasing sea erosion, "we are losing Indus delta".
“We have lost 3.5 million acres of fertile land in Thatta, Sujawal and Badin. The major chunk of remaining land has turned into saline and farmers have left farming and adapted fishing for their livelihood," they said unanimously.