ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee was informed on Monday that Badin and Thatta will drown by 2050 and Karachi by 2060 if immediate steps were not taken to check sea intrusion along the coastal areas of Sindh.
The Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Prof Sajid Mir was also informed that a significant part of Malir had already been affected by seawater and Karachi also would not remain safe if steps were not taken to rectify the situation.
The warning came from officials of the Sindh Board of Revenue and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) during a briefing on “intrusion of the sea to the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan”.
Director General of the NIO Dr Asif Inam told the committee that in 1989, the United Nations had included Pakistan in the list of countries which would be affected by the rise of sea level.
Badin, Thatta to drown in sea by 2050
The NIO official said that for 300 days in a year, water did not go beyond Sajawal in Sindh which was the main reason for the sea intrusion. He said that after a cyclone in 1999, seawater entered the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) which was meant to drain out the excess saline water back to the canal.
The LBOD has reportedly been blamed by civil society groups since the 1990s for altering the drainage and water flow patterns in lower Sindh – specifically Badin and Thatta – and worsening the flooding in the two districts.
Dr Inam said people obtained underground water from a 64 cubic kilometre area whereas according to the international standards, it should not be more than 17 cubic km. He said the underground water reserves were fast depleting because of this almost 400 per cent excessive use.
Secretary of the Sindh Board of Revenue Ghazanfar Ali Shah told the committee that there were reports that some parts of Malir had also been affected due to sea intrusion. A survey was being conducted to ascertain the situation, he added.
An official of the Badin administration disclosed that over 31,000 acres of the district had already drowned.
Prof Dr Sarfaraz Hussain Solangi of Sindh University briefed the committee about the changes in weather patterns and temperatures and its effects on the area. He said the sweet underground water was being replaced with saline water at an alarming pace.
Officials of the Balochistan Coastal Development Authority told the committee that their province was facing a similar situation. Referring to a report, they said one kilometre coastal land in Balochistan had already gone under the sea.
The committee was informed that during the past 35 years more than two kilometres of coastal land had been submerged.
Senator Taj Haider of the PPP informed the committee about some of the steps the Sindh government had taken to check sea intrusion. He asked the federal government to extend help to the provincial government.
The committee was informed that the level of seawater was rising at a rate of 1.3 millimetres per year. A modern GPS system was being installed along the coastal areas of Badin and Thatta to monitor the situation.
After the briefing, the committee called for ensuring water discharge in Kotri downstream strictly in accordance with the 1991 Water Accord.
Dr Karim Khawaja suggested that the committee should through a letter ask the prime minister to make the issue of sea intrusion a part of the agenda of the Council of Common Interests so that effective steps could be taken in a short span of time to save the coastal areas from drowning. He also suggested that the committee should approach the Planning Commission to include various projects in the coastal areas in the Vision 2025 programme.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2015