Fishermen’s union to launch campaign against Chashma-Jhelum link canal

Express July 19, 2010

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) has announced a 10-day campaign for tail-end fishing communities who are suffering because the Chashma-Jhelum link canal is siphoning water off to the Punjab instead of allowing it to reach Sindh.

The Indus Delta is already being threatened by sea intrusion because fresh water is not flowing down the River Indus. As a result fishermen and livestock farmers have had to migrate to safer places.

In a statement on Monday, the forum said it would start its campaign on July 21 and it would run to the end of the month. Protest rallies, seminars and public gatherings will be organised in district headquarters to condemn what the PFF has said is the government’s “indifferent approach” to the plight of the fishermen who the say number two million.

A show of support will be organised in Karachi on July 29 with a massive rally from fishing village Ibrahim Hyderi to the Karachi Press Club.

The forum said that the elected representatives had failed to act in the Sindh Assembly by passing a bill to abolish the controversial contract system over the inland waters in Sindh. Some legislators, including the Sindh fisheries minister, had assured them that this would happen. The forum said that certain influential landlords have occupied several freshwater bodies, depriving local fishermen of their right to fish in those waters. The fishermen are forced to sell their catch to influential people in return for meagre amounts.

The government needs to assess the actual status of major water bodies, their biodiversity, water quality and the grievances of the communities who live by them and rely on them for their livlihood. The PFF pointed out that the marine and inland water communities don’t have proper civic amenities.

The forum said that bonafide fishermen should be given licenses once the contract system is abolished. There will be protest demonstrations outside the Sindh Assembly if the legislators don’t act, the forum said.

The PFF also demanded the government hand over a piece of graveyard land to the villagers of Chashma Goth in Bin Qasim Town and cancel the military’s claims to the land.

Protest in Naushahro Feroz

Representatives of the Awami Tehrik and the Sindhiyani Tehrik rallied against the opening of the link canal outside the Moro Press Club on Monday.

The conducted a sit-in near the Toll Plaza and blocked the National Highway in protest. Speakers said that the province is already facing a shortage of water because of which thousands of acres of land have become barren. They threatened to block all roads leading to the Punjab if the CJLC is not closed and Sindh not provided its proper share of water.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.


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