KARACHI – As the deepening scarcity of water, quasi-feudal subjection of freshwater resources and ensuing degradation of inland water facilities by pollutants have placed the fishermen community at risk, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) has set afoot plans to initiate a survey to ascertain the exact losses being incurred by local fishermen, who depend on freshwater bodies to eke out a living. Through the study, findings of which will be shared with government authorities, it will be assessed that how many fishermen had to migrate from their ancestral villages in search of better livelihood. “This initiative is being launched by the PFF following a campaign against the contract system and illegal encroachments on freshwater bodies by landlords,” said a statement issued by the organisation on Wednesday.Interestingly, of a total of 1,209 inland freshwater bodies, nearly 300 are under the control of feudal lords, notables and politically-influential people in Shikarpur, Qambar Shahdadkot, Ghotki, Sukkur, Kashmore and other Sindh districts. Lives of fishermen residing in these districts are in jeopardy, as they have been deprived of their source of income. They are living as slaves. Neither contractors nor local administrations would pay heed to their deprivation(s). In line with a Sindh Assembly decision to issue licences to bona fide fishermen, the PFF will sensitise the fishermen community to the problems arising from irregularities in the (earlier) contract system. Fisheries Department officials meanwhile complain that fishermen are reluctant to renew their licences. The survey will find the exact data about freshwater bodies in the province and that how many lakes have been degraded.The PFF claims that the number of lakes occupied by landlords and notables may be more than 300.  In many areas of Shikarpur, Ghotki, Qambar Shahdadkot, Kashmore and Jacobabad districts, the fishermen community is not allowed to fish without a prior permission from landlords and tribal chieftains.“There are 40 water bodies under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department. The survey will also find whom these water facilities belong to,” said PFF Vice-Chairman Mustafa Meerani.According to him, the condition of the community was quite pathetic in many areas, as fishermen could not fish. He also alleged that certain water facilities were auctioned off in connivance with government officials and tribal elders. “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure security to every citizen. Likewise, the fishermen community needs protection. Their lives are under threat as water resources have been allegedly occupied by powerful people. They cannot raise voice against this ill-treatment as the influential people are being backed by local administrations,” concluded Meerani.