By Hafeez Tunio
KARACHI: Once one of the richest landlords living in the Indus Delta area of Thatta district, Gulab Shah is now struggling to survive following the erosion of his 300 acres of fertile land by the sea. Shah alongside many other victims have been protesting on various forums to release river water in the area, but all in vain.
“We had orchards located near Keti Bunder, which was a bustling town some decades ago. After the construction of dams, the flow of our mighty river has been diverted. The situation can be gauged from the fact that we run after a sip of sweet water to quench our thirst,” Shah said, requesting the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to reconsider his decision about dams and asking the government to revive the delta.
Shah is not alone in his protest for the revival of the delta. Many others living at the delta, including people living in Badin and Thatta, have sent an SOS appeal to the CJP to save their generation from ocean gushing water, which according to them has inundated their villages, towns, agriculture land and graveyards.
Some of the victims, led by a civil society organisation, protested outside the Karachi Press Club last week. People carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans, “SOS appeal to CJP to revive delta,” staged a sit-in for an hour.
“After the 2010 flood, we have not seen the river flowing into the sea. Those who say that water is being wasted should visit the area once and see our plight,” said the barefoot 70-year-old Arif Mallah, who is a resident of Kharo Chan in Thatta.
Sharing his childhood stories, Mallah said, “When I was a child, people from other areas of Sindh and Punjab used to come for cultivation to our area and now hundreds of villages have been ruined and people have migrated to other places,”
Referring to research studies conducted by national and international organisations, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairperson Mohammad Ali Shah said, “More than two million acres of land has come under sea water.
Every day, the sea intrusion is eroding the land. It was the Indus River flow which pushed the sea and created the delta. Since there is no water in the river, the delta is dying.”
PFF is a representative organisation of fishermen in Pakistan that has been struggling for the last thirty years for the survival of the deltic region of Sindh.
The Indus Delta, world over, is considered a unique natural resource but wrong policies of successive governments have dried it up, the PFF chairperson said.
“The delta possesses a distinct natural, agricultural and cultural heritage. We prefer to die and face the atrocities at the hands of authorities, but we will not let them further vanish our delta,” he remarked.
According to him, their hue and cry is against dams in Sindh and a massive movement will be started until the government withdraws its decision to divert Indus River water. “We wonder on these decisions. We are dying for drinking water and they are building more dams. We suggest the government start water management rather than imposing ideas, which can be harmful for the country,” he said.
Yasmeen Kazmi, a civil society activist, quoted the national and international law about upper and lower riparian and opined, “Pakistan, being lower riparian, is pleading a case against India for controlling water and building dams, but it negates its own stand giving more share to Punjab and ignoring tail enders living in Sindh.”
Decrying against the national media for not highlighting their issues, the protesters said they would continue their struggle and not bow down.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2018.
(Courtesy, The Express Tribune)