Fishermen celebrate bill to end contract system

Legislation must be implemented, warns PFF chairman.


Express January 15, 2011

KARACHI: Fishermen across the city finally have something to cheer about now that the Sindh Assembly has unanimously passed a bill to abolish the contract system on water.

“More than 300 lakes are under the control of influential people, a few of them who belong to the ruling party, and these persons are not willing to give the water sources back to the fishermen,” said Muhammad Ai Shah, chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a nonprofit organisation working for the rights of fishermen in the country.

Shah credited the fishermen’s long struggle against the contractual system for the provincial assembly’s decision to pass the bill.

“The government has announced that a committee will get the lakes back from the influential persons and identify bona fide fishermen, but it is not clear who will represent the committee,” he said.

In a month-long struggle that started on November 28, thousands of fishermen organised protests and rallies under the PFF’s banner.

Shah hoped that the government would implement the legislation.

According to him, the contract system in Sindh was started in 1977, when some influential persons were awarded contracts on a political ground. They took control of some water bodies and started to charge fishermen for using the waters, thereby harming the fishermen’s only source of livelihood.

The fishermen were compelled to hand over their entire catch at meagre rates to the contractors.

The statement issued by the PFF said that the recent floods have created a ray of hope for the fishers of the province because the water has filled lakes and ponds. Fresh water lakes, which were drying out earlier, have become more rich with fish but the only way fishermen can benefit from this is if the legislation introduced by the Sindh Assembly is implemented in letter and spirit.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2011.

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