Islamabad - Chairman Senate Standing Committee, on Planning and reforms, has said the country is losing land due to erosion which poses a threat to defense installations of Pakistan Navy located on the coastal area.

Senate standing committee on Planning and reforms met here Monday to discuss serious issue of sea erosion. Senator Kareem Khawaja, Chairman of Senate standing committee on Planning and reforms chaired the meeting.

Representative of the ministry of Planning informed that the issue of sea intrusion/land erosion is not the part of the vision 2025.

“It is deplorable that important issue of land erosion due to sea intrusion was not included in the vision 2025 of the Planning commission,” Senator Kareem Khawaja said. “Sea intrusion is a serious issue which not only causes land loss but can also affect our defense installation” he said.

Chairman of the committee further informed that the researchers who have conducted the study of the sea intrusion received threats.

A few months back in a briefing, to the standing committee on Science and Technology, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) warned that three coastal cities in Pakistan’s Sindh province, including Karachi, Badin and Thatta would be submerged by 2060 if the current trends of sea erosion are not stopped.

The official from Pakistan Navy informed that they are keeping a constant eye on situation in the coastal areas and are regularly conducting studies in this regard. “We have complete data of the 990 Km coastal area of the country” he claimed.

Irsa member from Punjab, Rao Irshad while briefing the committee said that the Authority has conducted series of studies on the issues pertaining to; water escapages below Kotri Barrage to check seawater intrusion, water release downstream of Kotri Barrage to address environmental concerns and environmental concerns of all the four provinces. Rao said that Irsa had submitted its report to the ministry of Water and Power in 2005 but is still waiting for the reply from the ministry.

He said that in order to have an independent external review of the studies an International Panel of Experts (IOPE) was appointed. The IOPE has recommended an escapage of 5000 cusec feet per day, downstream Kotri, throughout the year to check sea intrusion, accommodate the need for fisheries, environmental sustainability and to maintain river channel.

“The IOPE understands the problem of sea intrusion/coastal erosion as occurring in the Indus Delta area and considers this as a National problem,” member Irsa maintained. He said that the reason, for sea intrusion, identified by the IOPE are primarily; reduction in sediment supply by Indus River, reduction in the Mangrove vegetation, prevention of flooding of the outlying delta areas due to the river bunds, sea level rise.

He further said that the IOPE also recommended a release of 25 maf in five years in a concentrated way as flood flow (Kharif Period). For the increase in Mangrove vegetation, the IOPE recommended a certain flow of water, sediment supply, control camel grazing, stop fire wood cutting and more Mangrove plantation.

Director General of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) said that climate change, through increased intrusion of sea water into the Indus deltaic region could affect the whole range of marine life besides causing degradation of crucial ecosystems such as mangroves. “Major changes in river flow below Kotri have affected the ecology in lower Sindh and the coastal area significantly, besides adversely affecting agriculture production,” DG NIO said.

He said that the increase in salinity due to depleting fresh water contribution by the Indus River has reduced the suitability of the delta for the cultivation of red rice, the production of exotic fruit and raising livestock.

Regarding Baluchistan, the DG said that Baluchistan coast is facing issues related to coastal erosion and accretion and is not experiencing any sea water intrusion. “NIO is conducting a detailed study of the Indus Deltaic area with the technical assistance of Chinese Research Institution. Two of the NIO scientists are working at China on samples and data of Indus Delta,” he informed.

Dr Sarfraz Hussain Solangi, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Sindh Campus, Jamshoro said in his presentation that the temperature is definitely rising which is a visible sign of climate change.

Karachi is expected to have an increase of 3 Degree by year 2100 while Northern areas may have an increase of 5 degree centigrade by year 2100.

The sea Levels are rising globally and with every one foot rise in sea level is expected to submerge 615 sq km of coastal land in Sindh alone, Dr Solangi said.

He said that groundwater up to Sujawal which is about 75 km from the coast seems very much affected due to the seawater intrusions. “The contribution of seawater into groundwater ranges from 41-49 % at Jati, which is about 45km from the coast. The contribution of seawater into groundwater ranges from 83-92% at Shah Bundar, which is nearest to the coast,” Dr Solangi informed.

During November 2003 the contribution of seawater into groundwater was lowered upto the extent of minimum 17 % at Sujawal and maximum 77 % at Shah Bundar due to release of about 20 MAF fresh river water downstream below the Kotri barrage, he added.

Coastal area of Sindh including delta was nourished with northern sediments brought by Indus through past millions of years but the sedimentation reduced and now nearly stopped due to irrigation system including Barrages and Dams. Due to rising sea level globally and reverse in Delta building Process Sea is intruding landward, he said.

“To prevent sea intrusion adequate fresh (river) water should be released downstream below the Kotri barrage. It is further suggested that the flow of water shall be regularized and spread throughout the year so that fresh water from Indus river should infiltrate subsurface and adjoining areas for whole year round and consequently stop the present / existing seawater intrusions completely,” Dr Solangi maintained.

It was also decided to constitute a subcommittee, comprising of senators and technical experts to help the government on the issue.