Sindh govt to rehabilitate wetlands in Indus Delta

The project will cost $25m, banks on carbon stored in plants to help coastal communities

​ Our Correspondent January 08, 2020
A WWF image of the Indus Delta.

KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to initiate a project under public-private partnership model, to revegetate degraded wetlands in the Indus Delta, so as to benefit the province's poverty-stricken coastal communities. The cost of the project is projected to be $25 million.

The decision was taken during a cabinet meeting of the provincial government held on Tuesday.

Addressing the meeting, Sindh Local Government, Forests and Religious Affairs Minister Nasir Hussain Shah informed the participants that vegetation in coastal areas is in fact "a vast carbon reservoir."

"Vegetation in coastal areas, including mangrove forests, sea grass meadows, salt marshes and wetlands, stores and sequesters blue carbon," he said, elaborating further that these plants capture carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is then deposited as sediment at their base.

If properly revegetated, these wetlands have immense potential to benefit coastal communities as well as the provincial government, he added.

Forests Secretary Rahim Soomro said entering a public-private partnership was the only way through which vast chunks of degraded wetlands in the Indus Delta could be rehabilitated. Agreeing with Soomro, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that public-private partnership model would help with addressing the budgetary, technical and managerial constraints entailing the endeavour and directed forest department officials to initiate the process establishing a public-private partnership for the purpose.

At this, Nasir apprised the CM that a private firm has shown interest in providing assistance for the rehabilitation of wetlands through a public-private partnership model and has committed to deliver services for the development, sustainability and management of the wetlands. The firm has proposed its services for rehabilitating wetlands stretching over approximately 250,000 hectares of the Indus Delta, in Thatta Suajawal and Badin Districts, under a project  titled 'Sindh Blue Carbon Initiative' (SCBI), he said.

"The project will cost around $25 million and the agreement will last for 60 years, however, this period may be extended up to 100 years at a later stage," he added.

Illegal jetties

Later, Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Minister Abdul Bari Pitafi informed the cabinet that illegal jetties were operating on a large scale in the province. He revealed 33 irregular jetties were identified, including 12 in Ibrahim Hyderi, five in Mirpurkhas, six in areas falling in Thatta, Badin and Gharo Districts and 10 along the coastal belt in Balochistan.

"These jetties are run by influential persons and charge between Rs100 and Rs5,000 per boat," he said, adding that irregular jetties were found to be causing a loss of Rs4 million to Rs5 million to the government.

To tackle the issue, the CM ordered the fisheries department officials to make necessary arrangement for installing Vessel Monitoring Systems and called for transferring their control to the government to regularise them.

Tourism assets

The cabinet observed that the assets of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation were to be devolved to Sindh after the 18th Amendment was passed. The meeting outlined a motel in dilapidated condition at Hawkes Bay, 32 acres of land in Sukkur, a chunk of land in Hyderabad, a tourism facilitation centre in Karachi, a motel in Moen-jo-Daro, a tourism information centre in Thatta and a piece of land in Bhambhore, as assets to be transferred to Sindh.

The participants of the meeting decided to write letters, seeking the transfer of these assets, to the federal government and agreed that the provincial government would look after these assets until the matter is settled.

Safety Rules

Following this, Sindh Labour, Archives and Information Minister Saeed Ghani presented a draft for the 'Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Rules, 2019'- a bill aimed at ensuring the safety of employees at workplaces. The bill, also covering labourers and agriculture workers, bounds the employers to ensure 'neat and clean environment' at workplaces and adopt safety and security measures, including  the installation of lights, ensuring proper ventilation and temperature and controlling dust and noise. The cabinet approved the bill.

Fee exemption

The labour minister also requested the cabinet to exempt shops and other commercial establishments from paying registration fee, in accordance with the 'Ease of Doing Business Reforms'. At this, the cabinet agreed to exempt shops and other commercial establishments from paying registration fee. The exemption, however, is subject to establishments registering via The Sindh Business Registration Portal.

Blood banks

Officials from the health department apprised the cabinet that the regional blood centre in Jamshoro was being managed by the Indus Hospital and it has seven blood banks affiliated with it. The blood blanks are located at LUMS Hospital, Hyderabad, DHQ Hospital, Matiari, Civil Hospital, Thatta, Civil Hospital, Badin, Civil Hospital, Mirpurkhas, Civil Hospital, Tharparkar and Civil Hospial, Jamshoro.

The meeting was informed that the Indus Hospital had performed a gap analysis wherein it was found that the total requirement of all the attached hospital-based blood banks was 70,000 bags. The cabinet's approval was sought for increasing the quantity of blood bags at the banks from 20,000 to 70,000, which will cost around Rs8.2 billion over the period of next 10 years. The cabinet acceded to the request.

Earlier, as the meeting commenced, the CM remarked, "It is the first cabinet meeting of the new year, which will turn out to be a year of development, peace and prosperity."

The meeting was attended by all provincial ministers, advisers, acting chief secretary Mohammad Waseem and other relevant officials. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2020.


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