KARACHI - Nature conservationists, community activists, government officials and media persons urged the authorities concerned to ensure preservation of fresh water reservoirs and wetlands, which provide source of living to hundreds of families and offer habitats to wildlife and marine species.

They said this while speaking at a programme ‘Restoration and Protection of Wetlands’ organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) to mark the World Wetlands Day on Sunday.

The programme attracted a large number of community people, including women hailing from different waters located in coastal areas of Karachi, Badin, Thatta, Sujawal, Sanghar, Jamshoro and coastal villages of Karachi.

The speakers shared their observations of existing waters in different waters and its status of flora and fauna, feeding water sources and being habitats of the species.

Omar Mallah from Badin portrayed the picture of Narreri Lake, with at least 20 other lakes in Badin district have almost lost their beauty because of shortage of fresh water. Shakoor Lake, which shares border with Indian water body was main source of feeding these lakes. But now due to shortage of fresh water all these lakes are no more productive, he added.

He linked the depletion of lakes to sugar mills, which stream waste in these lakes through artificial drains.

Irshad Gandro, a local activist gave overview of pollution at Keenjhar Lake, which receives poisonous chemical from Kotri and Nooribad Industrial sites. Keenjhar is in a list of 10 Ramsar sites in Sindh. He said there is no iron net at the outlet where from the specific canals of Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), which is the source of supplying water to Karachi city.

He also complained that certain land mafia is involved in grabbing piece of Keenjhar lake land. He demanded to stop birds hunting at the lake. “Do not use harmful nets to avert loss of juvenile nets,” he added.

The community demands to have model villages with availability of basic facilities. He also calls for issuing micro finance loans to the women so they may have alternative source of income.

PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Ali Ercelan, Munir Abbasi of Environment Protection Agency (EPA), senior journalist Mahesh Kumar, President Hyderabad Press Club Ishaq Mangrio, writer Rasool Bakhsh Dars, PFF Vice Chairman Mustafa Meerani, Jamil Junejo, Sami Memon, Rafiq Meerani, Deputy Director Sindh Fisheries Department, Mahboob Ali Brohi and others spoke on the occasion.

Mohammed Ali Shah said: “Sindh is the land of natural lakes and rivers, which introduced Indus civilization 5000 years back. But due to political manoeuvring and development of water projects, the lakes are depleting fast.” “It is all happening in the name of development. International financial institutions, corporate sector and multinational companies have contributed in this destruction and displacement and they are still propagating to divert attention of communities,” he said.

He warned that the communities do not like this kind of unsustainable development, which is posing threats to ecology and human life.  

Ali Ercelan asked the people about the power projects being planned in the province, saying these projects will further cause destruction of their water resources. He said keep close eye over this changing scenario. Jamshoro coal power house may stream its waste in to the river and destroy the river ecology, which is already experiencing threats.

Ramzan Mallah from Sanghar district shared the situation of the cluster of desert lakes after building of Chotiari Reservoir, which grabbed 16 officially declared waters. Presently, the main issue the people are facing is influence of local landlords, who have encroached upon the lake lands for cultivation. This has affected source of livelihood of more than 3,000 fishermen families.

He said like other natural water reservoirs the situation of lakes in Sanghar is also worst in terms of environmental destruction. The government authorities should ensure release of fresh water to these lakes to rehabilitate these destroyed waters.

Sindh Fisheries Department Deputy Director Rafiq Meerani appealed to community people to come forward and save these waters, which are not source of their incomes but also playing role of preserving nature and offer habitats to marine species.

Earlier, Gulab Shah presented welcome speech, while Azad Mirwahi sung melodious songs on the occasion.