Entire globe is experiencing water crisis. Asia in general and South Asia in particular is not exception to this phenomenon. This region is marred with complex and multidimensional aspects of water crises. Not only the availability of water has declined, but also its health has been badly affected.
A deep probe into the issue reveals that unchecked deforestation, destruction of wetlands, dumping of industrial waste into waterways, construction of dams, over exploitation of the major river systems, corporate control on water resources, increasing population and weak water governance have posed serious threats to life and health of water systems of South Asian Rivers including Indus River System.
This altogether has generated various serious offshoots such as destruction of climate of deltas and its eco system, degradation of wetlands, unsafe drinking water, decline in availability of per capita water resources, lack of potable water to great number of people, droughts and inter and intra state conflicts. Notably, Proposed Construction of Bhasha dam on Indus will further damage the environmental flow of the Indus.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) being a people's movement had launched a year-long campaign on March 14, 2012 on the eve of International Rivers Day having following demands:
1. Privatization and commoditization of water and of any other common good (land, seeds, knowledge, etc.) are crimes against the planet and against humanity. That should be stopped.
2. Environmental flow of Indus Should be ensured
3. It should be ensured that no more water cuts are made in the upstream of Indus or any such scheme be pursued that necessitates further diversion of water.
4. It is essential to rehabilitate the tail-end of Indus River that is the INDUS DELTA. This means no more dams and cuts on INDUS including the contemplated Kalabagh Dam and Bashah Dam and greater Thal Canal.
5. Work on greater Thal canal should be stopped and plan should be abandoned.
6. Besides, the gross damage so far caused in the Indus Delta as a result of water cuts for decades be compensated fully in the light of a comprehensive study of the damage to lives, livelihoods, mangroves, fisheries, livestock and other manifestations of bio-diversity in the Indus Delta.
7. Considering the dire environmental conditions facing the Indus River and its Delta Eco-region and their negative effect on the communities' livelihood, 35MAF being demanded by coastal communities of Pakistan's Sindh Coast. This is a necessary precondition to ensure the realization of the Human Rights of deltaic communities, and to provide a basis for developing future water policy and plans.
8. There should be an independent study conducted through national and international universities. This study will determine the flow of fresh water downstream Kotri and the actual need of fresh water for the rehabilitation of Indus Delta and its future survival needs. This study should also determine about the ecological, environmental, economical and social losses of Indus Deltaic people from the upstream diversion, cuts and constructions of dams and barrages prior the partition of India to onward. In the light of above study federal government should be compensate to all affectless.
9. We urge to this democratic government to constitute an Indus Delta rehabilitation and revival commission and allocate adequate resources for the revival of all forms of life that has been damaged and provide an alternate livelihood to all the communities who have largely been victim of this inequitable distribution of water and lost their means of livelihood.
10. 35 MAF of water downstream to Kotri Barrage, as deemed necessary by the IUCN for the existence of bio-diversity, should be ensured;
11. A plan should be developed for the conservation of mangroves and for the environmental, social and economic development of the Indus Delta Echo-Region.
A series of activities like awareness sessions, mobilization, lobbying and consultation meetings with wide range of stakeholders, rallies, demonstrations, press conferences, writing articles and position papers and a national conference have already been organized under this campaign. The last but not the least planned activity is to organize a People's Carvan from Kotri Barrage, Jamshoro to Islamabad.
Thousands of fishers, farmers/peasants, students, environmentalists, journalists, representatives of civil society organizations and politicians will gather at Kotri Barrage on March 01, 2013 to mark the opening ceremony of the Caravan.
The speeches on the movement and caravan will be followed by a colourful cultural programme having rounds of poetry and Sufi Rag which will last till dawn. Many of the participants of the opening ceremony will leave from Jamshoro to Hyderabad press club. Later on the Carvan will leave for various cities of Sindh.
By going through Bhit shah to kashmore via various cities of Sindh Carvan will carry out various mobilization and awareness activities. Meetings with journalists will also be held. Sufi rags will also be arranged. Rounds of cities will be conducted. Meetings will be held. The love for rivers and message of restoration of rivers will be spread.
The caravan of the Rivers' lovers and friends will spread the message of love and attachment for the rivers. It will mobilize and aware people of Sindh and Pakistan to work hard for the restoration of rivers especially Indus. It will also sensitize masses to agitate against big dams and build campaign against Bhasha dam, Kala Bag dam and greater thal Canal.
Leaving Sindh, it will go through various cities of Punjab for Islamabad. It will reach Islamabad on March 14, 2013 on the eve of International Rivers Day.
The participants of the caravan will be organizing a number of activities like rallies, marches, gatherings at different villages, towns and cities which will come in the way to Islamabad. A number of people will also be joining the caravan as it will be passing from different localities. Hence, the caravan will arrive at Islamabad on March 14, 2013 on the eve of International Rivers Day and will turn into a mega demonstration/sit-in in front of the Parliament House to demand the rehabilitation of the river and the Indus Delta. Besides, a great number of people from various parts of Pakistan will participate in the sit-in.
Photo courtesy of Pakistan Paedia.