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

They were speaking at a programme ‘Restoration and Protection of Wetlands’ organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) here at Keenjhar Lake on the occasion of World Wetlands Day on Sunday.

The event was attended by a large number of people, including women hailing from different areas in Badin, Thatta, Sujawal, Sanghar, Jamshoro and coastal villages of Karachi.

Omar Mallah from Badin portrayed the picture of Narreri Lake which, like at least 20 other lakes in Badin district, has lost its beauty because of shortage of freshwater. He said Shakoor Lake which shares border with Indian water body was the main source of feeding these lakes, but now due to shortage of fresh water all these lakes were no more productive. A few years ago these sources used to produce a variety of fish species but now they do not have delicious fish.

He linked the depletion of lakes to sugar mills which released 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 was no iron net at the outlet where from the specific canals of Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) supplied water to Karachi.

He also complained that certain land mafias were involved in grabbing piece of Keenjhar Lake land. If the situation continued, the lake would further lose its beauty. The land mafia might be planning to use the lake land for commercial purposes, he said

He demanded to stop birds hunting at the lake and use of harmful nets. He also called for issuing micro finance loans to women so they might have alternative source of income.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Aly Ercelan, Munir Abbasi of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), senior journalist Mahesh Kumar, Hyderabad Press Club president Ishaq Mangrio, writer Rasool Bakhsh Dars, PFF vice chairman Mustafa Meerani, Jamil Junejo, Sami Memon, Rafiq Meerani and Mahboob Ali Brohi spoke on the occasion.

Mohammed Ali Shah said: “Sindh is the land of natural lakes and rivers, which introduced Indus civilization 5000 years ago. 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.

Ali Ercelan warned local people of the power projects being planned in the province, saying that these projects would further cause destruction of their water resources. He advised them to keep an eye on this changing scenario. Jamshoro coal power house might stream its waste into the river and destroy the river ecology, which was already experiencing threats, he said.

Ramzan Mallah from Sanghar district said the main issue people were facing was influence of local landlords who had encroached upon the lake land for cultivation. This had affected source of livelihood of more than 3000 fishermen families, he said.

Rafiq Meerani of the Sindh Fisheries department appealed to community people to come forward and save these waters which are not source of their income but also play role of preserving nature and offer habitats to marine species.

Mahesh Kumar paid tribute to Fisherfolk Forum team for bringing all the people together to play their role for conservation of water resources. He said conservation of nature was equal to saving the centuries-old culture of Sindh. But irony is that on the occasion of World Wetland Day, the ruling PPP could not include it in their 15-day schedule of celebrating Sindh Festival.