KARACHI: Speakers at a programme held to mark the World Fisheries Day on Saturday vowed to safeguard rights of indigenous fishermen and rejected plans for development of islands under the recently promulgated presidential ordinance.

They were speaking at the fisheries day’s celebrations organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) in Ibrahim Hyderi. This year’s theme of the day was ‘Fisher peoples’ sovereignty on all marine islands and guarding rights of the fisher people’. The day is celebrated by the fisherfolk communities throughout the world on Nov 21 every year.

PFF chairman Moham­mad Ali Shah said that the forum would safeguard rights of indigenous fisherfolk and not tolerate any decision that went against their interests.

He said that around 300,000 fisherfolk in Sindh and Balochistan solely depended on marine fishing, mostly in creeks, while the government had decided to construct cities on islands that would block fisherfolk’s paths and deprive them of their livelihood.

He said the federal government had constituted Pakistan Islands Development Authority to build a city on twin islands of Bundal and Dingi in Karachi and the forum was protesting against the decision on the fisheries day.

He said the decision was not only against the country’s Constitution but it also went against international conventions and agreements, which provided social, economic and cultural sovereignty to indigenous people.

In addition to this, the fisherfolk faced a number of other serious problems, including increase in marine pollution, unconventional and non-traditional fishing practices by use of destructive nets and deep-sea trawlers, which had ruined ecosystem and drastically affected livelihood of fishermen, he said.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s MPA Mahmood Alam Jamote said that use of banned nets had damaged fish stocks in the sea. Therefore, nobody should use the nets themselves nor allow others to use them, he said.

The participants in the programme demanded that no construction should be made on the islands, the presidential ordinance should be withdrawn and foreign deep-sea trawlers should not be issued licenses. No industrial and domestic waste be discharged into the sea without treatment in order to reduce marine pollution and at least 35 MAF water should be released downstream Kotri Barrage to recharge Indus delta, they said.

Researcher and historian Gul Hassan Kalmati called for launching a joint struggle to save Sindh’s assets and said that PPP should take up the issue in Senate.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2020

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