HYDERABAD, March 13: Sixty-two-yearold Arbab Ahmed Mirbahar feels at a loss for words to explain his feeling of enormous loss when he recounts the good old days he spent fishing with his father in the once mighty and bountiful Indus river.
Today he sees only eddies of dust whirling over dry sand dunes that is the riverbed lined by small streams and rivulets.
The life giving river that used to overflow its banks and had a way of changing the course abruptly lies like an old ailing man on the deathbed.
Mirbahar who lives in Sain Dino Mallah village on the left bank of the river in Jamshoro district rues abundance of fish in the river. ?We used to have seven different kinds of pallo fish known for its delicious taste throughout the world but nowadays we hardly find any fish?? he said.
He recalls catching enough fish to earn a handsome amount of money. ?But the situation has become pathetic nowadays,? he said.
Fishermen community in Pakistan and particularly in Sindh is fast losing its centuriesold and only source of livelihood because of poor water flows in the river and contract system for fishing in freshwater lakes and ponds.
As the world observes the International Day of Action for Rivers today to highlight threats to rivers and communities dependent on them Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) organised a long march to press for rehabilitation of the Indus river and decommissioning of old dams.
The march led by PFF head Mohammad Ali Shah started from Indus delta in Kharochan taluka of Thatta district and concluded in Jamshoro on Saturday.
?Reclaim Our Rivers, Our Rights? is this year?s theme for the world rivers day.
The delta will be destroyed completely if a required quantum of water is released downstream Kotri. There are conflicting opinions about required quantum to check sea intrusion but the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord calls for releasing at least 10 MAF into the sea.
According to irrigation expert Idris Rajput climate change warnings and reports of melting glaciers due to global warming by 2035 are incorrect but Indus will surely lose its 40 per cent inflows by the end of 21st century because of melting glaciers and it requires serious attention.
He said that the required quantity was not constant. ?If it is one MAF at a time it is between 10 to 25 MAF at another occasion, indicating that water can be saved even after releasing 10MAF into the sea,? he claimed.
But PFF?s Mohammad Ali Shah disagrees. He believes that 35 MAF water is needed to check sea intrusion and strongly advocates decommissioning of old dams.
Not only the fishing community but rural and urban population in the province will also be hit by water scarcity, making management and conservation of water even more important.
Sea erosion has so far devoured 1.6 million acres in Indus deltaic region, according to a 2006 survey carried out in eight talukas of Badin and Thatta districts.
Agriculturists will have to give up the old practice of flooding their land and adopt sprinkler and drip system, effective for short duration crops, not only to save water but also get better yield.
Environmentalist Naseer Memon underlined the need for shift in approach from water engineering to water management. ?Water shortage in system is a problem but inefficient use of water is even bigger problem,? he said.
He said that improving water efficiency in agriculture, industry and domestic supply could augment water availability by 30 to 40 per cent. ?Water managers must revisit the approach of insisting on large reservoirs,? he argued. Sindh Abadgar Board president Abdul Majeed Nizamani supported water conservation and urged the government to undertake study of Katzara dam that had a capacity equivalent to almost six Kalabagh dams. ?I had proposed it to Pervez Musharraf but Wapda mixed it up,? he said.
Nizamani blamed Irsa for non-implementation of 91 accord and said Irsa?s permission to release 6,000 cusec into Chashma-Jhelum link canal on Feb 12 ran counter to the accord. ?Sindh also pays for system losses of NWFP and Balochistan,? he said