KARACHI: Moosa Dablo and his wife Kazbano Dablo can only offer camel milk tea and duck eggs fried with onion to any guest visiting their barren island to show their hospitality. The fisher couple keeps four ducks and four camels with them for this purpose.Moosa Dablo lives with his two brothers in the small village of Yousif Dablo. Yousif Dablo is located on a deserted island in River Indus delta near Khober and Turchan creeks. To reach the village, one needs to embark on a four-hour long boat drive from Keti Bunder, Thatta district. The village is just few kilometers from Arabian Sea. “Dablo” is the surname used by indigenous fisher communities who have been residing in River Indus delta for many centuries. In the past, when upstream flows of River Indus were not diverted by the rampant construction of dams and barrages, roaring currents of Indus used to reach deltaic islands. The Indus brought with it two things crucial to the survival of these indigenous communities of fishermen; fish and freshwater.Back then, the fishermen were prosperous. The catch was copious and the land was fertile. On top of that, they had access to freshwater and fodder for their livestock. They were often referred to as ‘Mir Bahar’ (lord of the sea). “My father used to tell me that once my grandfather had the Kharai buffalos, famous for their milk, besides horses, goats, and cows. And due to the abundance of river water in the creek, they were able to grow paddy and cash crops,” recalls 52-year-old Moosa Dablo.Then things changed for the community. The Indus stopped replenishing the deltaic islands and sea water replaced it. Most of the 17 creeks in the region filled up with sea water and in the absence of strong flows from Indus, sea water began flowing upstream from these creeks. The influx of seawater destroyed the fertile lands of the past. The fishermen began selling off their livestock because they did not have access to fresh water and fodder.“Now, we don’t even have water for ourselves, let alone our animals,” Dablo says sadly. Dablo and his brother go for fishing for a week every month when the tide is favourable. The remaining three weeks, they stay at home as they can’t find fish. Once a week, the fishermen embark on a four-hour-long boat ride to Keti Bunder to buy provisions and drums of water.“We have kept two dogs in our small hamlet to guard families when we are out for fishing. Dogs need little water so we can keep them. We brought these dogs from Keti Bunder,” says Dablo.The family also keeps a ‘Kharai camel’. Kharai camels are a unique breed of camels that can survive on little water. These camels can also graze mangroves and swim in the sea from one island to another.“No plants or bushes thrive in the area in the absence of freshwater. Only mangroves grow on these islands. We cannot keep cattle because we have kept a Kharai camel to get some milk,” explains Kazbano Dablo.“There are so many problems here but it is very difficult for me to consider leaving this place. Moving permanently requires a lot of money,” says Moosa Dablo.“This area belongs to my forefathers and I was born and raised here. I don’t have any other skills except for fishing, so if I move somewhere else, what will I be doing there?” he asks.Published in Daily Times, July 3rd 2018.