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Indus Delta needs 35 maf water to survive
Thursday, October-20-2005

By Shahid Shah

KARACHI (October 20 2005): Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum Manager Programmes Zulfiqar Shah a young research scholar has warned that if enough water was not made available to the Indus Delta the mangrove forests would deplete inviting natural disasters like cyclones.

The Indus Delta is on the verge of destruction, the bio-diversity, ecosystem, and agronomy of the delta are threatened from the lack of water flowing dwn from Kotri barrage. The Indus Delta needs at least 35 maf (million acre feet) of water only to survive in present state, Zulfiqar said.

Zulfiqar Shah’s study report on Indus Delta is under publication. After completing his masters in philosophy from Sindh University Jamshoro, Shah took to research on water and development issues.

Being a member of International Rivers Network, Society for South Asian Studies (UK) and International Society for Philosophers Sheffield University UK, he holds international repute in his fields.

Zulfiqar Shah maintains that when he realised that water was the major issue of Sindh, he decided to work over it and come up with the latest information. Whereas, the research on Indus Delta was simply inspired by the poetry and cultural history of Sindh, he quipped.

He revealed that historically the entire area of lower Sindh was a delta. "Actually, there were two major deltas, one was Sarsvati in Run of Kuch, and the second is the Indus Delta.

"Sarsvati has dried up long ago," he said adding, "There are only remnants of this delta while the Indus Delta is also dying gradually."

Referring to the degradation of the Indus Delta, he said disasters like earthquake and tsunami had immediate effects, but the Indus Delta was going through a slow and gradual death so it could not attract the public eye.

"The degradation started way before the partition of Pakistan and India when mega projects in the Punjab were constructed and the first urbanised port of Sindh Sokhi Bander Island was destroyed. Sokhi Bander existed near the mouth of Indus Delta, close to Malh and Mutni creeks and inhibited by more than 30,000 peoples," Shah said.

"Rice mills existed there. The sanitation system of Sokhi worked better than that of a medium-level city. It was the first victim of mega projects till the 1955," he added.

Pointing out towards other aspects of the degradation, he said according to the official figures of the Sindh Board of Revenue some 1.22 million acres of the fertile land went under sea intrusion until 2001. "But, the number has reached to around 2 million acres till the March 2005 in the eight Talukas of two districts of Thatta and Badin," he said that the data was collected from the local farmers and landowners.

He did not agree with the views of one official of the Board of Revenue that the sea intrusion was the cause of the cyclone. "Cyclone could not have such a large impact to change the hydrology of the local ponds and lakes from sweet water to saline," he stated.

"Cyclone could not be blamed for the sea intrusion, cyclones also hit other countries but there is no case of the sea intrusion," he said.

He said that construction of mega projects destroyed the topography of the Indus Delta. "At Sajawal Bridge (Thatta city) the ecology of the Indus River has changed to marine from sweet water composition, although Thatta is 40 kilometres away from the mouth of the Indus," the self styled scholar claimed.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation Zulfiqar said that drinking water available in Thatta has 15000 tds (total dissolved solvents) in it, whereas according to World Bank health standards nearly 5,000 tds is the maximum acceptable level for the human consumption and solvents above this level are disastrous leading to the severe diseases.

He attributed the high child mortality rate and pregnancy related deaths to rising tds ratio of Indus water, "The mortality rate among new born is 18 per cent, and mothers 15 per cent."

He lamented that in some areas of Sindh one gallon of irrigation water was being sold for Rs40, which was used for the drinking purpose by the thirsty masses.

Discussing the socio economic impacts of the degradation he said that the market value of 2 million acre fertile land facing sea intrusion is worth more than the benefits of the dams.

Referencing to the current three studies over sea intrusion, ecology and environmental impacts and water requirement in Pakistan, he criticised the Sindh Government saying that it had accepted the ToRs of the studies, which were harmful to the Sindh and the delta. "Sindh should not have agreed over the ToRs of the report titled ‘Seawater Intrusion’, which only covers sea intrusion in the river while ignoring the destruction of the whole delta."

He mentioned, "consultants were given the task to verify the water requirement downstream Kotri and not to suggest the alternatives, which is absolutely against the 1991 water accord."

Finally, he said that the Indus Delta should be provided at least 35 maf to 46.3 maf water for sustainability, "rehabilitation is addition to it, which needs more water," he concluded.

Courtesy The News International, Pakistan

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