`Indus delta badly hit by lack of freshwater inflow`
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By Ghulam Hussain Khawaja | 6/9/2016 12:00:00 AM
THATTA: The Indus delta, the fifth largest delta in the world, is facing severe degradation mainly because of drastically low inflow of freshwater downstream Kotri barrage, which is also leading to vanishing and shrinl(ing of wetlands, says national coordinator of UNDP GEF Small Grants Program, Masood Lohar.

Mr Lohar told Dawn on Wednesday that recently vanished and shrinking wetlands, particularly 42 small lakes and their surroundinglush green grazing grounds along the coastline of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin, which were a source of livelihood and an attraction for nature explorers, were indicators of fast degradation the delta.

`Before 1935, 150 MAF water was going into the sea, which came down to 80 MAF in 50s and dropped further to 2 MAF in 2001-02, substantially decreasing silt deposit in the delta and causing decay and ultimately sea intrusion,` he said.

Besides the 42 major sites, Mr Lohar said, there were some 200 depressions, lagoons and ditches right from Keti Bunder in Thatta to Rehamki Bazaar in Badin district which were gradually getting brackish mostly due to sea intrusion and environmental degradation.`These depressions can be improved with small investment to retain floodwater and thus become a buffer between the mainland and intruding sea,` he said.

Mr Lohar has recently carried out an extensive study on `sea intrusion and its aftermath` acknowledging the recent disclosure by the senate`s standing committee that by 2050 a major portion of the three districts of Laar i.e Thatta, Badin and Sujawal as well as a portion of Malir in Karachi would be submerged under oceanic waters if appropriate steps were not taken by the state and at least 35 MAF water was not released downstream Kotri barrage.

He said that he was not disappointed as the rehabilitation efforts had proved successful and cost-effective. In 2014, the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Program successfully rehabilitated ChorhaddiBhandari Dhoro (depression) in Badin district, by improving its retention capacity and using rainwater harvestingtechniques,he said.

In that extremely remote and saline region, the rehabilitated lake now was a main source of drinking water and fish. `The lotus is blooming there now which is something very rare to see in this salinity hit infertile area,` said a jubilant Lohar.

He said that such small efforts for rehabilitation of degraded lakes and depressions could create a bufferbetween the saline-onslaught of the sea and the fertile mainland.

Mr Lohar said that it required very small investment but manual efforts to improve the rainwater retention capacity of the depressions by improving embankments and locals could earn considerable living by improving the rainwater harvesting capacity of the ditches and depressions.

Two Ramsar sites, Narerri and Jabho, both water lagoons in Badin district and its surrounding grazing grounds Lakha, Jhimm, Rakhal, Khaddi and 12 others which were gradually vanishing were the sites where cattle owners herded their cattle for grazing during drought months, he said.

`A 3000 acre of portion of Narerri was successfully rehabilitated in early 2010 by UNDP-GEF SGP and it was visited by the then country director of UNDP but it got degraded again in early 2011 when the floodwater of 2010 and heavy rains of 2011 destroyed its embankments,` he said.

Environmentalists Zahid Ishaque Soomro,SattarBehrani,GhaniKatiyar, Asghar Ali and others expressed the fear that without releasing water and revitalizing depressions, ditches and lagoons through rainwater which were drought-hit for long due to negligence of government, the coastal wetlands would ultimately vanish away.