IRRIGATION experts have voiced concern over the decline of freshwater flow through Kotri barrage, which has led to ‘drought-like conditions’ in Badin’s Laar region. The grievance is a long-standing one, and it concerns the distribution of water between the provinces, with the coastal regions of Sindh receiving a trickle of the flow from the mighty Indus. The experts brought up the issue of discriminatory practices and ‘water theft’, which has not only exacerbated the problem of water scarcity, but deepened underlying resentments. This is compounded by water mismanagement and wastage, in a country where millions lack access to clean drinking water, despite having more glaciers than any other part of the world, barring the polar regions. Presently, several parts of the Indus Delta face dire water shortages, which has led to the intrusion of saline seawater onto the land, wreaking havoc on the soil, ecology and economy of the region. In a cruel irony, residents are deprived of water, and simultaneously threatened by it — caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, between scarcity and excess. To make matters worse, global warming and rising sea levels have only accelerated the process.

Most people in the region are dependent on agriculture and livestock, and as the land becomes uncultivable and uninhabitable, they are forced to relocate or migrate to other parts of the province. Furthermore, mangrove forests are depleting due to the lack of freshwater flow to the delta region. Not only do the trees sustain a diverse ecosystem and support the fishing community, they have also protected the coast from natural disasters and soil erosion for centuries. Now, in a span of a few decades, thousands of acres of land have been lost to the sea, particularly in Badin and Thatta districts. According to researchers, it will take just another few years before other parts of the region are submerged under water, unless the present, self-destructive patterns are reversed. It is a warning we should heed.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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