Experts on Wednesday warned against vanishing seafood sources of both freshwater and the sea in Sindh province, despite being home to 1260 fresh waters, river streams and canals.

They were speaking at a dialogue on reviewing FAO guidelines on small scale fisheries, organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) at a local hotel. They said all the world known Ramsar sites and wetlands either have depleted few years back or fighting the war of survival due to pathetic approach of the government.

They urged upon the government to incorporate the valuable points of FAO guidelines to protect the sources of incomes of hundreds of fishermen, who derive their livelihoods from lakes, rivers streams, ponds and canals through their forefathers.

Not only fish, the water vegetables, which once were demanding food sources for the communities now have declined, forcing the people to shift hands to alternate sources of incomes, said Mustafa Meerani, vice chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.

Meerani, belongs to Manchhar Lake, is known expert keeping eye on the inland water, status of fish stocks, water quality and vegetation.

He said water vegetables with rich nutrients were main sources of taking food by local fishermen residing at the inland waters long ago. But now not only land grabbing, but lake grabbing has also become the issue, which is enough for eye-opening of the policy makers. The government by launching major projects without taking the local people in to confidence has spoiled the natural resources.

For instance, oil and gas exploring companies have identified the fresh water bodies for installations and disturbing the local people, specifically fishermen to migrate to safer places.

He said Manchhar, the biggest lake of the province, presently has lost its scenic beauty and water quality. Residents travel hundreds of miles away in the search of better living, leaving their children and elderly parents back at ancestral abodes.

Nasir Panhwar of Centre for Environment and Development (CEAD) said fish is consumed in Sindh largely as compared to other provinces of Pakistan. But now, he said, it seems the people are losing their access to even fish due to lack of affordability. The majority of people cannot have two meals a day in many areas of the Sindh province.

He said there might be some waters wherefrom small scale fishermen produce more fish but they do not get benefits because of exploitative market mechanism.

He suggested to promote community based fish, forest and farming in Sindh to end the hunger and fear of food insecurity.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said earlier research findings showed that fish could be only source of food when entire (food) sources will be depleted from the world. But the recent researches show that the fish stocks have already depleted fast due to over fishing by factory trawlers.

Quoting reports, Shah said 80 percent of total seafood comes from continental shelf, which are made by freshwater river streams. But since the rivers are chained by mega water projects, the natural seafood sources have depleted.

He said factory trawlers have got control of fish stocks all over the world, forcing fishermen to live without proper nutrients.

Zulfiqar Halepoto gave technical input on voluntary guideline on small-scale fishing, saying the capitalists have influence on the Pakistani government and governance system. In result, the poor people are losing their resources. He said these guidelines can be adopted over all the sources, including fishing, farming, forests and land management to avoid fears of food insecurity.

Punhal Sario of Sindh Hari Porhiat Council said the demand for having right to food and alleviation of poverty should become the slogan for the entire civil society of Pakistan, linking it to the global movements to protect the resources.

He said now civil society has got space to the major forums of the world, hence social movement is only way out to force the government to implement the laws to alleviate poverty. Because the poverty has destroyed the values set by our forefathers. The poverty has spoiled the cultural values. The rulers have imposed floods, manmade disasters and starvation through destroying natural resources. That is why the mineral-rich Sindh people are facing starvation and hunger and displacement.
Dr Aneela Naz Soomro of Sindh University, Noor Ahmed Jinjhi, Waheed Jamali, Dr Ali Murtaza Dharejo, Mustafa Gurgaiz and Jamil Junejo also spoke on the occasion.

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