ISLAMABAD: Sea intrusion has devoured about two million hectares along the coastal area in Sindh and Balochistan, experts informed the Senate standing committee on planning, development and reforms on Friday.

The committee met to discuss the growing concern about sea intrusion along the 750km coastline from Karachi to Badin and steps to address the issue.

The meeting was informed how Pakistan Navy, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) were using satellite imagery to record the pace of sea intrusion. However, precise data was still not available due to the shortage of funding.

The experts said climate change and especially human interferences with nature’s course were the main reasons for the coastal erosion.

Indus River System Authority (Irsa) Chairman Rao Irshad Ali explained how 400 million tons silt was deposited in coastal areas extending land by 30 metres.

“But this was before developing the agriculture infrastructure. Today on an average as little as 126 million tons is deposited. Unless the required amounts of sediment are deposited in the coastal areas, the problem of sea intrusion will never be solved,” said Mr Irshad.

Experts inform Senate body that climate change and human interference are main reasons for coastal erosion

Former Secretary Planning Commission Fazullah Qureshi informed the committee that the loss of mangroves was a major reason for the wave wash.

“More than 260,000 hectares of mangrove land in the 1970s shrunk to 160,000 hectares by the 1990s. By 2001, mangroves covered only 80,000 hectares. Fish catch is as low as one fourth of what it used to be before the mangroves, nurseries for marine life, shrunk.”

Director General Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Syed Salman Shah believed that haphazard and irregular developments were causing the nature to fight back and adjust itself.

Director General National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) Dr Asif Inam said Pakistan had 30 to 40 years to take mitigation measures and that the time to act was now.

“The Indus River is not feeding the whole delta and the land is not being nourished because of restricted flow of water. Research is still underway to determine the total loss. It will take another six months before we have precise information about land loss,” said Dr Inam.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja, believed that the federal and provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan did not understand the gravity of the situation.

“I’m certain that the Balochistan government does not know at all the extent of the land loss,” he said.

The committee members will visit the coastal areas and later draw government’s attention towards the mitigation measures.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2016