KARACHI: Human rights workers and civil society activists demanded on Thursday the provincial government get a lake, which has been illegally occupied by politically influential land grabbers, in Sujawal district vacated.
The land grabbers have deprived hundreds of fishermen of their right to livelihood, which they had enjoyed for decades.
Addressing a joint press conference organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and Joint Action Committee (JAC) at the Karachi Press Club, the rights activists said the Kun Purao Lake in Shahbander tehsil of Sujawal district is a glaring example of the high-handedness of politically and administratively-backed landlords who have illegally occupied fresh water bodies across Sindh.
Those present on the occasion included Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Executive Director Karamat Ali, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Vice-Chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt, Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman, PFF General Secretary Saeed Baloch and others.
Kun Purao Lake, which is spread over about 1,000 acres, is surrounded by three villages comprising approximately 300 households of the fishing community who depend on the lake in order to feed their families, said PFF Chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah.
There are 1,219 water bodies across Sindh and the Kun Purao Lake stands at 1,150 on a list maintained by the provincial fisheries department. This lake stands on number 103 in the list of Thatta district’s water bodies.
The lake has historically been in use of fishermen, excluding the years of the contract system, said Shah. However, fishermen are currently barred from fishing at the lake by some influential landlords despite having a licence issued under the Sindh Fisheries (Amendment Act), 2011 and Rule 3 of the Sindh Fisheries Rules, 1983. These licenses have been issued by the deputy director of Thatta’s fisheries department and the Directorate of Fisheries Sindh Inland Hyderabad.
Thatta’s fisheries department has also confirmed that 23 licenses have been issued to these aggrieved fishermen. However, contrary to the claims of the fishermen that the lake covers about 1,000 acres, the licence letter reads that the lake covers an area of 300 acres.
The fishermen approached us a month back, said PFF’s Shah, adding that since then, the PFF has staged several demonstrations, press conferences and rallies in different districts, including Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Sanghar and Sujawal.
PFF has also forwarded different letters to concerned authorities, including the Sindh chief minister, livestock and fisheries department minister and secretary, Sindh inspector-general of police, Sindh Human Rights Commission chairperson, Hyderabad DIG and Sujawal SSP.
However, a response has yet to be received.