Sindh needs more water to save 2.7 million people from starvatio : speakers

Monday 29 August 2005, by The News International, Pakistan

KARACHI: Sindh needs 4.5 million acre feet (MAF) of additional water
to save 2.7 million population of Indus Delta from starvation and
protect their livelihood, resources, mangrove forests and fishing.

Speakers at a regional conference have urged the government to ensure
availability of 4.5 MAF of water for the riverine area of 2.112
million acres of Sindh before going for any reservoir and dam on Indus
River.

They were speaking on "Integrated Water Resources Management in South
Asia" - a two-day conference - which was organised by Pakistan
Fisherfolk Forum in collaboration with Architecture and Development
and other partner organisations of the Sustainable Programme at a
local hotel.

The speakers underlined the need of providing adequate River Indus
water to downstream Kotri barrage to save 2.7 million population of
Indus Delta area from starvation and protect their livelihood,
resources, mangrove forests and fishing.

Sindh Minister for Irrigation and Power Nadir Akmal Leghari
inaugurated the conference, attended by water experts, economists and
NGOs from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and various parts of Pakistan.
The conference will conclude on Thursday.

This was the second conference under the ‘Sustainable Programme for
Rehabilitation of Indus Delta-Echo Region’ (SPRIDER) project, which
began in May 2004 and will continue till May 2006 with the support of
European Commission.

Provincial Minister Nadir Akmal Leghari in his inaugural speech said
that Sindh was of the view that unless they did not agree on the
quantity of water going downstream Kotri Barrage, no future irrigation
schemes should be taken up.

He said that the Sindh government was concerned about the
socio-economic problems of the coastal and delta communities. But he
added that due to the adverse global climatic conditions, the water
scarcity persisted in Pakistan during a couple of years in the recent
past due to which the river flow to the Indus Delta was diminished to
some extent.

The minister informed that the long-standing issue of the studies to
ascertain the Indus flow in the downstream Kotri Barrage to Indus
Delta was settled and he hoped that the studies would soon be fully
accomplished.

M H Panhwar, an expert of agriculture and water said that due to
construction of dams and decline in the flow of Indus, the riverain
area of Sindh, which included on 2.112 million acres, was ruined.
"Before going for any new dam or reservoir 4.5 MAF water should be
released for the riverain area," he urged.

Panhwar suggested constructing a barrage at Keti Bander that would not
allow seawater to enter the river channel but would allow fresh river
water to go to sea.

Idris Rajput, former secretary Irrigation and Power Department, Sindh,
said that with the gradual buildings of dams and reduction of water
the delta was dying. He said that there was a policy gap in the
development of agriculture and rescue of the delta. "Whenever, there
is shortage of water in Sindh, Mangla and Tarbela dams are filled," he
said.

He also discussed issues related to the water disputes among the South
Asian countries, India-Pakistan, India-Nepal and Bangladesh-India.
Chairman of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Mohammad Ali Shah said the
regional conference on water issues would provide a forum to help
acknowledge the rights of all citizens to live in a healthy
environment.

Noted research scholar and economist Dr Kaiser Bengali said that water
was basic right of people. He said due to absence of democratic
institutions, the negotiations among provinces were not happening in
Pakistan.

Senior scholar and Director of IUCN-The World Conservation Union Tahir
Qureshi said that about 90,000 people were displaced and 120 villages
submerged due to sea intrusion in Thatta and Badin districts.

Over 300,000 fishermen migrated from the Indus Delta to other parts of
Sindh and were facing problems, he added.

Alex Bill of Alternative Canada gave an overview of SPRIDER project
and said the main aim of the project was to work together to find
solutions to the environmental challenges facing people in the Indus
Delta region, and all along the coast.

The other speakers of the conference were included researchers Anwar
Pirzado, Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Prof Sarwar Mamound, Co-ordinator,
Afghanistan Peace and Democracy Act, Dr Tallat Wazzarat of
International Relations Department of Karachi University and Hameed
Asghar Shaheen.

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