The Indus delta, sixth largest delta in the world, is depleting due to shortage of fresh water.
The Indus Delta is unique in the world in biodiversity, natural resources and its indigenous communities. It is a typical fan-shaped delta, built up by the discharge of large quantities of silt washed down by the Indus River from the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges.
The present delta covers an area of about 600,000 hectares. It is characterized by 17 major creeks, innumerable minor creeks, mud flats, and fringing mangroves.
However, with the introduction of modern irrigation system on Indus River especially commissioning of barrages and dams, the Indus flow to the Delta started reducing drastically. Over the 65 years the fresh water flow has reduced from more than 80 MAF to less than average 10 MAF. The result is in form of irreparable losses to the ecology, biodiversity as well as livelihood resources of Indus Delta.
The mangroves forest drastic reduction has occurred in the mangrove forest coverage in the area as well as in the fish and shrimp catch. Reduction in Indus flows and silt deposition has given complete freedom to the sea tides to move towards fertile lands.
The lands in proximity of the sea have been completely submerged by the sea. This situation has threatened the basic livelihoods of millions of local communities and has resulted in massive poverty and vulnerability in the region.
The federal government is violating the water accord 1991 by constructing dams and canals on Indus River. Due to decreased flow of fresh water to the Indus River as many as 1.8 million acres of farmland in the coastal areas of Thatta and Badin districts have been inundated by the sea intrusion. About million of fishermen have migrated to other parts of province in search of livelihood.
Over the 65 years with the construction of dams, barrages and reservoirs, the fresh water flow has reduced. Because of the reduction in silt flows the area of active growth of delta, has reduced from an original estimate of 2,600 sq. km to about 260 sq. km. Similarly, Indus Delta mangroves used to occupy 345,000 hectares along the entire Sindh Coast. Recent estimates show that their area is now only 160,000 to 205,000 hectare due to lack of fresh water as well as over-harvesting.
The port city of Ketti Bandar whose municipality had provided financial aid to the Karachi municipality once upon a time has, now declined to become a tiny fishing village more so because of the diminishing supply of fresh sweet river water in the Indus Delta.
This process started lade in the 1800s when agriculture in the upper riparian region of Punjab started developing and for that purpose the waters of Indus were diverted upstream for irrigation purposes.
The permanent need of 27 to 35 MAF downstream Kotri Barrage to save the further degradation of livelihood resources of millions of communities. Despite not being able to provide 10 MAF downstream Kotri Barrage and envisaged in Water Accord and having not conducted scientific study on the actual Indus Flow needs downstream Kotri, considering the average flows of 36 MAF after five to years as “lost to sea”, and making plans for commissioning new dams on the basis of those flows is a completely unscientific and unrealistic approach.
With drastic reduction in the flow of fresh sweet river water, the ecology of Indus Delta was ruined, the Red Rice crop vanished, the Palo fish (clupea ilisha) became scarce were reduced to a mere 70,000 hectares, the production of shrimp declined by 70 percent and 2.2 million acres of the most fertile agricultural lands became marshes in the tail-end of river Indus.
Lift Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) aimed to drain out saline water and storm runoff, from 127 million acres of land in three districts Nawabshah, Sanghar and Mirpurkhas of Sindh Province to alleviate water logging and salinity.
LBOD project was to bring drainage effluents from the upstream and dispose it of into the Arabian Sea, via the Tidal Link Canal. However, due to some technical problems the drainage effluents instead of going into the sea started destroying lands and internationally recognized wetlands.
It was the LBOD that has protected the life and source of livelihood of hundreds of families residing in the area.
The salinity was increasing that might have caused wide destruction and displacement of the communities, deriving their livelihood there. Written By Aziz Sanghur