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Indus Delta destruction: conservationists for revisiting 1991 Water Accord


KARACHI: Nature conservationists on Monday accused the government authorities and policy makers of Pakistan, who have discarded the Indus Delta that used to receive Indus River’s water to maintain ecology for long but now more than 2.5 million people have migrated from their ancestral villages to safer places due to increasing sea intrusion and unavailability of fresh water.
Speaking at the dialogue on sea intrusion and destruction of Indus Delta at Thatta Press Club, they appealed to the academia, researchers, environmentalists and the community to show their unity for protection of the River Indus, Delta and wetlands.
The event was organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), attracted a large number of community people hailing from coastal areas. 
Dr Tahir Qureshi of IUCN, WWF’s Indus for All Programme former coordinator Nasir Panhwar, renowned researcher and author Zulfiqaqr Halepoto, PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, senior journalists Mahesh Kumar, Ishaq Mangrio, Mahboob Brohi, Mustafa Meerani and others spoke on the occasion.
Dr Tahir Qureshi said, “One-hundred years back the Indus Delta was the sixth largest in the world, but now it had lost its status due to manmade decisions, which had stopped its share of water and caused destruction and displacement. Now the active delta is present on only 460sq km, while the other area is passive, where from the people are migrating from one place to the other.”
He said, “Neither nature is favouring us nor planners, while policy makers understand the severity of the problem.” He also criticised the national research institutes, which had failed to conduct fresh researches to identify the problem and suggest exact solutions. He said that the Punjab government had designed at least three reports from 1991 to 2008 by their experts, favouring their interests to build dams and stop the Delta’s share. But the irony is that the experts from Sindh have never thought of a research in the interest of the Delta and its ecology. 
Nasir Panhwar said, “The ruling PPP despite being in power had failed to take up the serious issue of dam and barrage building. The government should implement Water Accord 1991 as per its spirit to ensure a stream of 10 million acre feet (MAF) water downstream in Kotri to save the Indus Delta.”
He said that the policy makers should revisit the old water accord of 1991, develop consensus and ensure the share of Indus Delta like all the four provinces, their agriculture and human population to save ecology. He said, “Policy makers themselves should be educated to understand the importance of the Delta and the concept of water for nature.”
Senior journalist Ishaq Mangrio pointed out that certain bureaucrats said that elites from Punjab and other provinces believed that the water streaming into delta was wastage and should be stopped. 
He said, “Like human population, wildlife species also need water for their sustainability. Hence let the river water stream to delta and tail end areas.”
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said, “Before the development of an irrigation system on the Indus River, the entire flow 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. This vast flood plain area followed the course of the River Indus, extending 5 to 160 km on either side.”
According to World Meteorological Organisation, 97.5% of all the water on earth is saline. The separation between saline and fresh water is delicate, so saline water can intrude into fresh water resources. 

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