HYDERABAD: The fishermen, one of the key stakeholders of rivers and waterways, who embarked on a long march against the proposed construction of Kalabagh dam to Karachi earlier this month will reach the city on October 25 to stage a demonstration. Hundreds of fishermen, led by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairperson Syed Muhammad Ali Shah, marched through Thatta district on Friday on their way to Karachi.
“There is a conspiracy under way to dry up Sindh by caging [the] Indus River by building dams and canals in the upper riparian province [Punjab],” said Muhammad Ali, while speaking to the media in Thatta. “The rulers are stubborn over building the dams citing shortage of water as an excuse,” he said.
Muhammad Ali asked the federal government to present statistics detailing shortage of water in Punjab and how many thousands of acres of cultivable land has turned arid in the province. He maintained that only Sindh has remained a victim of water scarcity and a new dam will further deprive the province of its share of water.
The PFF head also condemned Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda’s statement.
The minister had threatened that Sindh’s water share would be reduced if the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sindh government did not stop the water mafia from stealing water from Hub canal in Karachi. “This [the minister’s threat] is an attempt to stifle the voice of Sindh. Its repercussion will be bad for all,” Muhammad Ali warned.
He emphasised that the life of millions of people living in the coastal districts and the delta is dependent on river water, adding that sea intrusion has already consumed millions of acres of land due to a decrease in the release of river water into the sea. “Tens of thousands of families have migrated from the coastal areas and the process still continues as the water shortage has deprived them of their livelihoods.”
Muhammad Ali warned that the sea will consume large swathes of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts in the coming years if the discharge of river water in the sea further dropped. According to the 1991 Water Accord, the Indus River System Authority has to release 10 million acres feet of water in the downstream of Kotri barrage towards the sea.
Meanwhile, Gulab Shah of PFF said en route Karachi, the march’s participants are reaching out to the local people in different districts of Sindh to enlist their support for taking part in the resistance against any move to build the Kalabagh dam.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2018.