Rise in sea level initiating climate change, posing threats to local communities

Rise in sea level initiating climate change, posing threats to local communities

KARACHI: The small hut that Amina Dablo shares with her husband and five children in country's commercial capital, sits on the edge of the fishermen settlement of Chashma Village, next to Arabian Sea. When there is high tide, seawater sloshes into their shelter. Only the bed, raised-up on bamboo sticks, stays dry. "This small hut is all we have, so we need to stay here no matter what happens," said Dablo.

Around three years ago, Amina Dablo and her family left their accessorial village to escape the seawaters, but they seem to have followed her.

Their native village was located on a small island in the River Indus delta, around two hours boat ride from Keti Bunder town, the last human settlement on River Indus, it has almost got submerged due to the sea level.

They came to Karachi and started living in Chashma Village, near Ibrahim Hyderi, located on the edges of Arabian Sea and they are facing the same situation here also. The rising seawater is once again posing threats to this fisher family.

Sea level rise has become a serious problem for coastal communities living along the Sindh and Balochistan coast, and the indigenous fishermen are its worst victims.

According to independent estimations, around 25 major settlements on the Karachi coast, out of the total of 150 fishermen villages located along the 129km long Karachi coast are seriously suffering from the rising sea level.

These include Syed Paaro, Dabla Paaro, villages of Korangi Creek Ilyas Jatt, Gaabo Patt of Keemrari's Union Council, Chashma Goth, Latt Basti, and some parts of Ibrahim Hyderi and Hawks Bay.

Residents of Chashma say during the high tide and also in the monsoon, seawater enters into their villages and causes devastation. The villagers then flush out the sea water with joint efforts.

During this period they shift to nearby rocks temporarily, facing difficulties in performing daily life activities such as cooking.

With a population of over 150,000, Ibrahim Hyderi is one of the oldest fishermen settlements on the Karachi coast. Because of climate change, sea has become rough, affecting the residents. Severe monsoon and less intensity storms have caused a rise in the sea level, which is decreasing the coastal belt.

However, there are some who insist staying in the centuries-old settlement.

Muhammad Suleman, an area dweller, says during floods they move to upper places rather than migrating.

Recently, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) helped some of the residents to build high-rise houses, but many of the residents of these settlements are still facing problems as they can not afford to build houses with raised platform in order to escape from the rising seawater.

According to global scientific research, every year since 1990, the sea level is rising at the rate of 3.5mm, i.e. six to eight inches increase in 100 years.

Mohammad Ali Shah, chairperson Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum (PFF), an organization working for the betterment of fishermen communities said that the cutting of mangroves has resulted in the rise of the sea level, whereas the roughness is the result of global warming. Mangrove forests absorb poisonous gases from the atmosphere and provide oxygen and sea shelter from the cyclones but they are now shrinking rapidly.

Around ten years ago, government authorities constructed a wall near Chashma village, so that seawater may not enter into the house, but now the wall has brought adverse effects on the village. "Earlier, after entering into the village, the sweater was receding back to sea after few days, but since the wall is constructed it takes months for the water to go back into the sea," said a resident of the village.

The water stays stagnant in the village for months and it causes several diseases. Children and the elderly, particularly suffer from itching and other types of skin ailments.

Pakistan's coastal belt is 1,050km-long, with Sindh consisting 350kms, where according to an estimate 2.5 million people reside, about one million of them along Karachi coast.

Experts say global warming, which has increased, the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are major contributors to rising sea level. Sea rise has also led to the rise in poverty levels among the village's fishermen families.