KARACHI: Countries around the world celebrated World Wetlands Day on Thursday. Every year on 2 February this international day is observed to mark the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
In Sindh, the home of the tem most important wetlands which are declared Ramsar site, out of the total 19 site in Pakistan, are almost dying due to dumping of the industrial effluents.
Recently a constitutional petition was filed by lawyer Shuhab Usto, in which he pealed that the Sindh's wetlands have been made dumping grounds for untreated industrial and domestic waste water.
Expressing the grave concern over such practices, the nature conservationists have the need to take immediate measures for the restoration and protection of wetlands in country.
On World Wetlands Day, the experts said that the fragile ecosystems are conserved and natural disasters, particularly floods and droughts, can be tackled efficiently.
"Due to a massive rise in urban land cover and multiple other threats, almost half of the world's 500 important rivers and water bodies, which provide livelihood support to a large number of people across the globe, are being depleted," said Hammad Naqi Khan Director General, WWF-Pakistan on World Wetlands Day 2017, additionally, this has caused a direct habitat loss for a number of aquatic species particularly diverse fish and bird species dwelling in brackish as well as freshwater.
The theme for 2017 'Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction' aims to raise awareness and highlight the vital role of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as floods, droughts and cyclones on communities, and in helping build resilience.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser Marine Fisheries, WWF-Pakistan shared that there are five major wetlands along the coastal belt of Pakistan. Of these, the Indus Delta is the largest wetland which is known for its diverse fauna and flora including mangroves. Although the diversion of water from the Indus River for agriculture has reduced the flow of freshwater, it is still an important habitat for a large variety of birds and other animals. It also supports the livelihood of a large number of fishermen who harvest fish and shellfish from rich grounds in the Delta.Due to a decrease in freshwater inflow, coastal lakes like Nurrari and Jhabo lagoons have been converted into hyper saline lagoons. As a result their fauna has considerably changed from freshwater to marine. Stressing the importance of coastal wetlands, Khan pointed out that these are rich biodiversity hotspots and support important fisheries - a main source of livelihood for coastal communities.'Healthy wetlands contribute tremendously to disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction, combat climate change,help alleviate food insecurity and restore and promote the sustainable use of ecosystems,' he added.
Altaf Hussain Sheikh, Manager Conservation Sindh WWF-Pakistan said that Pakistan is well endowed with a wide variety of wetlandsranging from mountains to coast, with over 225 nationally significant wetlands. He said that without adequate water to maintain the wetlands, they will disappear. In Sindh, 12 out of 42 natural wetlands have become completely dried up and the rest are facing water scarcity. At Haleji Lake, he said that conditions have been worsening as a result of water shortage, sedimentation, spread of aquatic vegetation, and loss of the wetland as a sanctuary for migratory water birds. Out of 19 Ramsar sites in the country, 10 are located in Sindh. He urged that the stateof Ramsar sites in Sindh needs serious attention and a management plan may be developed to conserve the wetlands. He said that Keenjhar, an important source of water for Karachi, should be made pollution freeand responsible eco-tourism should be promoted there which could generate livelihood source for local communities.'In the current era, conservation, management and wise use of these wetlands can help mitigate adverse impacts of climate change and reduce risks of the extreme events', he maintained.
It is high time that all stakeholders including concerned government departments devise a comprehensive strategy for restoration and revival of wetlands in Pakistan. The strategy should address the issues of encroachments, pollution, overfishing and shortage of freshwater flow requiredon regular basis for these water bodies.