ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Climate Change on Tuesday expressed concern over the matter involving two fishermen who poured poison into Rawal Lake.

According to a statement issued by the committee, a report had been sought from relevant authorities. The committee condemned all actions that harmed the environment, the people and animals, and urged people to follow ethical and legal means of fishing to protect natural resources of the country.

Nuzhat Pathan, who is chairperson of the committee also urged authorities to take stern action against the culprits adding that people involved in this serious crime must be taken to task and punished according to law, the statement said.

Two fishermen from Kashmore in Sindh had been arrested last week for poisoning Rawal Lake. The fishermen made a living catching fish in Shahkot Dam.

“They were hunting Indian soft shelled turtles to sell their body parts in the black market,” head of research at the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), Sakhawat Ali, told Dawn.

Eight big turtles, more than 60 birds and dozens of fish were killed when the two fishermen poisoned the lake, he said.

“The two fishermen were caught red-handed extracting body parts of a turtle. They didn’t come to fish. They had mixed poison in 10kgs kneaded flour and tossed it into the water. The poison killed night herons and pond herons, eaglets, dozens of fish and eight large turtles weighing 25kgs to 35kgs,” said Mr Ali, elaborating that the carcasses of dead animals were being sent to a forensic lab in Punjab for analysis.

Punjab Irrigation Department immediately blocked the supply of water to residents of Rawalpindi, he said.

There are four species of soft shelled and four hard shelled turtles in Pakistan. The Rawal Lake is home to one species of freshwater soft shelled turtle and two species of hard shelled turtles - Indus mud turtle, Indian soft shelled turtle and brown river turtle. Body parts of soft shell turtles have been in high demand. In 2008, these turtles were declared protected and the law prohibited the sale of their parts.

In a video made by the wildlife staff, the two culprits apologised for poisoning Rawal Lake. “The heart of the soft shelled turtle is in high demand for medicinal purposes to treat heart conditions,” said one of the fishermen, Imdad Hussain.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2023

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