KARACHI: Growers and fishermen from the deltaic region Kharochhan in Thatta District filed a petition in Sindh High Court (SHC) seeking water share and action against the irrigation officials reluctant to play their role in equally supplying water to the people of the tail-end area.
The petitioners include Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Mohammed Usman, Yoqoob Otho and Illyas Perozani, representing local growers, fishermen and herders who are pleading to ensure a supply of water through irrigation canals, which they alleged “is being taken by certain influential persons, depriving hundreds of farmers, fishermen and herders, who are unable to get even potable water for drinking in the wide area”.
Hundreds of families are facing hardships due to the new phenomenon where politically-backed landlords have set up illegal pumps to irrigate their entire lands, depriving tail-enders of their legitimate share.
The petition held respondents Sindh chief secretary, secretary irrigation, chief engineer and executive engineers of Sakro Division as the responsible ones to ensure equal water distribution and remove the grievances of growers, who are unable to get their water share since the last few years. The scarcity of irrigation water has affected the agriculture badly and has depleted meadows and sources of drinking water. Farmers are unable to cultivate seasonal crops. There are fears that this may affect the traditional source of living of the local communities.
PFF Manager Programmes Jamil Junejo, and focal person on water-related issues expressed fears that the cry of food scarcity was echoing together with water shortage and panicking the people. He linked the issue to intensifying poverty further, creating uncertainty and chaos in the entire areas.
“Hundreds of people, depending on cultivation, animal rearing and fishing are vulnerable to face hardships. They want instant intervention by the government to restore water supply in watercourses. Otherwise, it may cause a mass migration of the communities and this could not be a good sign for the nation on the whole,” Junejo said.
He said that the people of this tail-end area have already been experiencing hunger, destruction and displacement. This new phenomenon may further worsen the situation. Food sources are shrinking all around, as the people are already experiencing ups and downs in the sea. PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said, “Since the international water treaties suggested water as a human right to all the people, the government authorities should take the concerns of the tail-end deltaic people in to consideration and resolve the issue to avoid disaster of food shortage, because these people depend on fishing, farming and animal rearing and are facing real problems.”
Small growers of tail-end areas of Thatta District have said that the persistent water shortage in irrigation canals and smaller tributaries have perished all seasonal crops like banana, betel leaf, vegetables and paddy on hundreds of acres of land.
The community elders pointed out that hundreds of people belonging to Deh Thare Wari and Deh Darsi in Kharochhan get water by two canals for cultivation of their pieces of lands and for drinking purposes. They plead that since the canal system is supposed to bring a green revolution through an increasing agriculture input, here, the situation was different, because of carelessness on the part of the government functionaries.
They said that influential persons by violating rules have installed water sucking pumps upstream to get more water for their lands, depriving tail-enders of their legal water share. This has caused destruction of their crops.
The petition has pointed out that the persistent water shortage has compelled a large number of families to migrate to safer places in the search of better living, because they are afraid of “further increasing vulnerability of the people due to food shortage”. There is also an apparent danger of an outbreak of waterborne diseases in the wide area due to water scarcity that may disrupt the life and turn disastrous.
The petition also quoted the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly, which recognises the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to realisation of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and International Organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.
They said that despite this kind of severity of the issue neither government has offered any alternates nor announced relief package for the affected families.”
It is pertinent to note that the growers of the area had already convened a conference, which attracted a large number of community people, farmers, fishermen and herders to sit together and decide how to achieve the common right.
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