THATTA: Speakers at a seminar held here on Sunday urged the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, a major beneficiary of Keenjhar Lake, to invest in the rehabilitation of the lake, which was getting highly polluted by industrial runoff.

They urged the government to take immediate measures to protect the lake from growing industrial and domestic pollution and safeguard livelihood of local communities who were solely dependent on the lake.

They said that already wetlands in the province were fast disappearing because of official neglect and now the untreated industrial runoff was threatening Keenjhar. Rising pollution levels in the lake water had drastically depleted fish population, they said.

They were speaking at the seminar on environmental threats to the lake and role of public sector organised by the Save Kohistan Action Committee at Jhimpir.

Prominent scholar Rassol Bux Dars said that Keenjhar is a major source of livelihood for about 50,000 fishermen living around the lake. Untreated industrial runoff from industrial areas had destroyed the lake, he said.

He said that if disposal of polluted water did not stop immediately quality of lake water would further degrade. Besides, invasive species of fish had seriously affected population of indigenous fish species, he said.

He urged the government departments responsible for the protection and maintenance of freshwater bodies to play their role in the lake’s protection.

Former MNA Dr Abdul Wahid Soomro said that not only the government but fishermen themselves had also played a damaging role for the lake by indulging in destructive fishing practices. Keenjhar is a treasure of nature, which must be protected from illegal occupation by land mafia, he added.

Nasir Ali Panhwar said that thanks to official neglect, wetlands were fast disappearing while Manchhar Lake had already vanished.

Sindh had the highest number of wetlands declared as ramsar sites which included Keenjhar, Haleji and Indus delta but the departments concerned had no management plans for these sites, a mandatory measure under the UN’s ramsar convention, he said.

He said that a number of departments were responsible for the management of wetlands but none had full mandate to manage them. This ad hoc approach had only created confusion among departments, he said.

Being a key stakeholder in the lake, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board must make investment in the rehabilitation and improvement of the lake and its people, he said.

Dr Ali Murtaza Dharejo said that pollution had risen to alarming levels in the lake as heavy metals were being released into the lake, which had not only affected fauna and flora but also caused diseases among the local population.

Nawaz Khan Zaur said that freshwater bodies were important natural assets because humans were dependent on them. Unfortunately humans themselves had ruined nature for their own benefits, he said.

Qadir Ranto said that land mafia was busy encroaching upon land around the lake and expressed serious reservations over proposed mega city of Zulfikarabad.

Qadir Palari said that land mafia was occupying land in the area in connivance with local people and it needed to be stopped urgently.

Abdullah Kohistani, Mohammad Bux Brohi, Raza Mohammad Plarai, Anwer Palari, Khair Mohammad Qavi, Murtaza Gohar and Shah Mohammad Chang also spoke at the seminar.

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