Deforestation in Indus eco-region lamented
By: Shahid Husain
Karachi: The first phase of the 50-year Indus for All Programme – a joint venture of WWF-Pakistan and the government of Sindh – has concluded. It had started in July 2006.
Speaking at an event organised at a hotel to celebrate the occasion, Rab Nawaz, the Indus for All Programme’s team leader, said the Indus eco-region happened to be among the world’s 40 biggest. It had one of the largest deltas in the world, the Indus Delta, which was of immense importance not only for Pakistan but for the entire world.
Talking to an audience of experts, including conservationists, economists, ecologists, marine biologists, representatives of communities, provincial government officers and other stakeholders, Nawaz highlighted the achievements during the five-year phase I of the Indus for All Programme.
“Critical ecosystems such as mangroves are necessary. They provide livelihood to local communities,” he noted. Nawaz regretted that there had been a great deal of deforestation in the Indus eco-region; loss of species and overgrazing in forests in the riverine areas. “Poverty complicates the situation,” he added.
Nawaz said the Indus for All Programme, which was established with the help of the Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands and expertise from former Sindh forest secretary Shamsul Haq Memon and other experts, had four objectives including community-based natural resource management and its priorities were Keti Bundar, Pai Forest, Keenjhar Lake and Chotiari Reservoir.
He said the achievements in objective-A had been 103 percent; 95 percent in objective-B, 99 percent in objective-C and 98 percent in objective-D.
“We had very vigorous monitors,” he pointed out. “Wim Geisen conducted the external monitoring of the programme and Ali Dehlavi, an economist at the WWF-Pakistan carried out the economic evaluation.” The key intervention, he said, was in the realm of mangroves plantation and the precious species that act as nurseries for fish and prawn were rehabilitated in an area of 7,500 ha.
“Under the umbrella of the programme during the last five years, crab ponds and fish ponds were established, GIS mapping laboratory was established in Hyderabad, 22 boats and 10 engines were distributed amongst fisher folk and steps were taken to restore wetlands and projects were untaken in the realm of alternate energy.”
Nawaz said non-hunting zones were established and the Wildlife Act was revised and submitted to the law department. Livestock model farm was introduced and 84,000 fingerlings released in fish ponds. Boat engine workshop was also constructed.
Ice boxes were distributed amongst fisher folk and cotton seed ginning was also promoted to strengthen the livelihood of the communities. Nawaz added an IT centre was established and kitchen gardening promoted.
Vocational training centres were established and small shops provided to widows. He said a network of 42 community-based organisations and two bakeries were also established in the first phase of the programme. Conservation and information centres were also established.
Nawaz said 147 events were organised in which 45,001 people participated. Twenty-five nature clubs were established and the “Friends of Indus Forum” was set up. Five ecosystem evaluations were conducted.
A climate change programme, a part of the second phase of the Indus for All Programme, was under way in the Keti Bundar area of the Indus Delta, said Nawaz. “The next phase will also focus on water security,” he added. “We will have to make the mighty Indus flow again.”
At the end, Nawaz thanked the media and the academia.
Earlier, in his introductory remarks, WWF-Pakistan Senior Director Dr Ejaz Ahmed thanked the locals, Shamsul Haq Memon, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and experts for making the phase I of the programme a success.
He said 240 areas across the world were identified and Indus was one of them.