KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was on Friday informed that the number of migratory birds which added colours to the wetlands of the province had declined alarmingly mainly due to shortage of waters in lakes and freshwater reservoirs.
While responding to lawmakers’ written and oral queries during Question Hour in the provincial assembly, Forest and Wildlife Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, said that over 1.75 million birds, including houbara bustards, cranes, teals, mallards, geese, waders and pelicans, had migrated from Siberia using Indus Flyway in 1992, while their numbers had now reduced to somewhere between 15,000 to 200,000 in 2019.
He said that the lakes were getting either dry or saline which was adversely affecting wildlife, particularly the migratory birds.
The minister, who was replying to the question of opposition member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, said that the provincial wildlife department was taking several steps for the protection of wildlife.
He said that the wildlife department remained in contact with the irrigation department for provision of sweet water in the lakes and wetlands during the migration of waterfowls from Siberia.
The minister said that effective steps were taken to check and control hunting of migratory birds as there was a complete ban on hunting at the lakes.
He said that migratory birds started their journey from Siberia in September or October and began returning to their native areas by the end of February or start of March every year.
When Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi asked why provincial government did not arrange water for the migratory birds’ sanctuaries, he sarcastically said that there was not enough water even for the crops in the province.
In reply to a written question asked by MPA Arif Jatoi, a well-prepared Shah said that there were 13 animals declared protected in the province and penalty for hunting them ranged between Rs50,000 to Rs150,000.
He said that the protected animals were Sindh ibex, Afghan urial (Rs150,000), chinkara, blue bull, hog deer, Indian wolf, honey badger (ratal), mugger or marsh crocodile, gharial or gavial, smooth coated Indian otter, Indus blind dolphin, greater flamingo and fresh water turtles.
Mr Shah further said that two cases of illegal hunting of chinkara deer at Umerkot and Tharparkar were detected and fines of Rs60,000 and Rs30,000 respectively were imposed on the violators. To a supplementary question, he said that the killer of the animal was fined Rs60,000, while the one who injured the animal was fined Rs30,000.
He said that there were some private game reserves where a number of species were being raised. However, the minister said, the operators of the game reserves had to undergo an official process for the activity.
Replying to another supplementary question raised by Mr Jatoi, he said that a new law was under consideration and it would be tabled soon for the protection of wildlife. He said that the penalty would be enhanced in the new law.
In reply to a written question asked by opposition member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, the minister said that no drip irrigation system was being used by the Afforestation Division of Riverine & Inland, Forest Department.
However, he said, nine solar tube-wells were being used in a section of Pai Forest called as Afforestation Division, Shaheed Benazirabad.
Certain comments by Ms Abbasi before asking a verbal question led to a little rumpus in the house as Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani repeatedly asked her to confine her to the supplementary question she wanted to ask.
“You always disturb the house. I will not allow this,” said Mr Durrani further saying “no one behaves like you in the house”.
The speaker made it clear that he would not allow anyone to deliver political speeches during Question Hour. “You may go out of the house to do politics,” he advised Ms Abbasi.
Replying to the query as to why all the tube-wells were installed in Shaheed Benazirabad district, the minister smilingly said that it was due to acute shortage of water in Pai Forest.
“It is the oldest forest”, added Speaker Durrani before he announced that Question Hour was over.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019