The International Rivers Day would be celebrated on March 14 around the world. The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has planned to celebrate the International River Day with a14-day campaign named as “Rights of Rivers and Personhood Rights of Indus River “. The campaign started from March 1 and under which any novel activities in the Sindh province will be conducted. A provincial dialogue would be held in Karachi on March 10 while a grand rally would be organized in Hyderabad on March 14.
Chairperson PFF Mohammad Ali Shah in a statement on Monday said that mobilization meetings, seminars, conferences and peoples’ tribunals would be held while letters will be sent to government officials during this period. Apart from this, he said, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum was trying to increase the public awareness to highlight the rights of rivers and Personhood Rights of River Indus, acute water scarcity, degradation and illegal occupation of lakes, destruction of Indus Delta, diversion of rivers through dam building. Managing eco-services is unfortunately used to defend state policies for misuse and misappropriation of water as human development via the construction of dams and barrages, and now promoting coal mining and power, for example, he said.
Shah said that environmental laws remain an illusion of enforcement. “The constitution acknowledges the right to life but not to livelihood,” he said. “The federal government and water bureaucracy were inexplicably committed to the construction of additional mega dams despite the much lower cost of water conservation in agriculture and industry.”Hence, living rivers and oceans cannot be defended without a new paradigm of assigning personhood rights to water bodies, including all life forms birthed and nurtured by water.
Since states regularly violate rights, substantive protection requires constitutional amendments that enable judicial protection, he said. Pakistan Fisherfolk believes that unless we grant fundamental human rights to the Indus River and Delta the way we have granted to citizens, the delta may not be restored. “We must accord its fundamental rights to live, to survive and to “smile”,” he said. In addition to already massive pollution by ‘modern’ agriculture upstream, a large number of coal power plants further threaten the productive ecology of water bodies and hence of land.
Campaign for rights of rivers and wetlands and the ocean may hopefully mitigate coal impacts now and eventually lead to the eradication of coal and other fossil fuels in the energy system of Pakistan, he said.