The water experts, environmentalists, civil society activists and community people have demanded the federal as well as provincial governments to protect Indus River and Indus Delta by providing them rights of a human being through the constitutional amendment.The demand was made at a provincial dialogue organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum over the theme of “Personhood Rights to Indus River and Indus Delta” ahead of World Rivers Day, which will be celebrated on March 14. This activity was a part of PFF’s two-week long celebrations.
A large number of community women from Karachi, Thatta and Badin also participated in the dialogue. Well known water expert of Pakistan, Hassan Abbass, said the Indus Delta was the worst example of environmental disaster in the world, which was an effect of Indus Basin Treaty. Criticizing the treaty, he said it gave nothing to Pakistan. “Govt is responsible for the restoration of the Indus Delta but the rulers were not ready to accept this disaster,” he said. The Indus delta has remained a source of fresh water.
“When you extract water from it, its culture will not remain the same. People have no livelihood in the Indus Delta,” he said. He also criticized the constructions of dams. Abbas said, “The world is dismantling the dams. From 1995 to 2020, around 2,700 dams have been dismantled in the USA. Of which, six dams were above 100 feet and one was above 200 feet. In Europe, after each 15 days, one dam is being dismantled. This is in the developed world. They made mistakes by constructing dams and they recognized the disasters to nature and the economy. They are restoring the natural flow of the rivers. We, in 2018, are creating dam funds.” He said, “When world is talking about free flowing rivers, we need to accept it. But we are focusing over loans.”
Chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Mohammad Ali Shah, said they want no dams, barrages or cuts over Indus River and demand personhood rights for both the river and the delta.Quoting a research report, he said that the world had around 370 million acres of irrigated land, of which around 30 to 40 percent land is getting water from dams. Remaining 70 percent land has other sources of water. Similarly, dams created a source of food for 12 to 16 percent populations only while other food came from other resources.
“Dams have not provided big solutions, they have created big issues, they have damaged the biodiversity of the rivers and have stopped their flows.”Due to construction of dams and barrages over the Indus River, Indus Delta has affected the livelihood of hundreds of people in the delta. Nearly 4.0 million acres of land have come under the sea intrusion in Thatta, Sujawal and Badin. “If the situation continues it will eat up these three districts in 20 to 25 years,” he said.
He said, “The indigenous people in the world believe that rivers are living beings. They have the right of free flowing and personhood rights.”Indus River should be provided personhood right and it should have representation in the parliament, he said. “If not in the senate, it can be provided representation in the Sindh Assembly, the people related to Indus River and Delta can represent it.”He said they prepared Indus River Rights Act in 2019, which should be adopted by the people’s elected representatives.Grant Wilson of Earth Law Centre gave his presentation through an online link.
He said that granting personhood rights to the rivers and nature.He said that New Zealand, Ecuador, Colombia, Bangladesh, and the United States were few countries who had provided rights of living to their rivers.Director PILER, Karamat Ali, said that minimum discharge of water in the Indus Delta should be assured, as hundreds of thousands of people depended over it.Environmentalist Nasir Pahnwer, Nationalist leader Abdul Khaliq Junejo, PFF Information Secretary Noor Muhammad Thahimoor, General Secretary PFF, Mustafa Mirani, Historian and representative of Indiginous Rights Alliance Gul Hassan Kalmati and Yasmeen Shah also addressed the provincial dialogue