Diversion of Indus River Delta Water Rejected by National Water Conference Participants
Any scheme that further diverts water of the Indus River or Indus Delta should be rejected at the same time that the tail-end of the river must be rehabilitated in order to arrest the total ecological destruction of the region.
Any scheme that further diverts water of the Indus River or Indus Delta should be rejected at the same time that the tail-end of the river must be rehabilitated in order to arrest the total ecological destruction of the region – these were among the demands of civil society organizations, water experts, researchers, activists, environmentalists, politicians and fishing communities from all over Pakistan at the conclusion of a National Water Conference organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum on January 9, 2013 at Hotel Indus, Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan.
Participants to the conference dubbed "Restoration of Rivers and Question of More Dams and Diversions on Indus" expressed grave concern that the Indus Delta, the sixth largest river in the world, is on the verge of death for several years now. Dams and water diversions have made water unavailable for communities downstream as well as caused sea water intrusion that has inundated 2.7 million acres of fertile land in the Badin and Thatta districts of Sindh.
A declaration signed by of the participants of the conference highlighted the fact that around 50,000 large dams block most big river systems. Dams now hold back 15% of the world's annual freshwater runoff.
It was also noted that around forty to eighty million people have been displaced by dams and that approximately two million people are relocated every year.
The declaration stressed the need for a new integrated water paradigm that brings together the various aspects of ground water, surface water and land management as well as considers communities and the environment as essential users of water.
The participants also agreed to demand that the right "of" and "to" water should be respected within the framework of food sovereignty. They defined right "of" water as respect for the entire water cycle.
They further regarded privatization and commodification of water and other common goods such as land, seeds, and knowledge as crimes against the planet and humanity. They stated that large-scale dams and hydro-electric projects grab and sequester water without taking into account the needs, traditional practices and opinions of local communities, and totally disregards the protection of ecosystems.
Prior to the drafting of the declaration, several speakers discussed various perspectives and issues concerning water and dams to further advance the knowledge of the participants and enable them to build consensus on water concerns.
Gulab Shah, District President of PFF Thatta, shared the community perspective on social, economic and ecological disasters in Indus Delta and the causes of such. Meanwhile, Ishaq Mangrio, a well-known journalist, provided the perspective of indigenous peoples on the degradation of Indus Delta.
Mustafa Baloch, Regional Manger SPO, shared his experiences on working in the coastal belt of Sindh and Balochistan. He emphasized that the degradation of Indus Delta is not only the concern of communities but also of people living in the cities. The inaccessibility of sweet water downstream reduces mangrove production that protect the land from cyclones and tsunamis. He said these looming disasters are a big threat to people living in villages and cities near the coastal belt.
Abrar Qazi (Awami Jamhori Party) spoke about the mega infrastructure for irrigation and power generation in the Indus and its impacts on the Indus River. On the other hand, Nazeer Eesani GM SIDA underscored that water is not an economic good but a right of everyone.
In the afternoon of the conference, the other speakers talked about the political aspects of the issue. Qadir Magsi (Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party) emphasized the need for land reform and laser leveling in Sindh. Representing PMLN, Ayoub shared that his organization is not in favor of the Kalabhagh dam.
Dr. Dhudo Mehri (Sindh United Party) delivered an emotional speech as he called for the rejection of dams after sharing the historical background of the Indus and pointing out that the degradation started way back in 1919.
Secretary General of Pakistan Peoples Party Sindh Mr. Taj Haider spoke on behalf of government and shared his party's perspective on water crises as well as discussed issues of water logging.
After the discussions of the speakers, a declaration concerning water issues was approved by the participants of the conference.