KARACHI: Speakers at a conference on “International Day of Rivers” have demanded personhood rights of a living person to Indus River and Indus Delta.
The conference was hosted by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) at Arts Council Karachi on Thursday with the theme of “Free flowing the river and personhood rights to Indus River and Indus Delta”. March 14 is being observed as “International Day of Rivers and against dams” since 1998.
Water experts and representatives from civil society, as well as political parties participated in the conference.
Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, said that parliament of New Zealand declared one river as live person and granted it personhood rights in March 2017, soon after a court in India gave personhood rights to Ganga and Jamna rivers. Recently, one lake in the US has been given personhood rights, he added. “They get legal rights of a living person.”
Shah presented a draft of Indus River Rights Act (2019) before the audience and said that it would be presented to the parliaments for approval, while a year-long movement would demand such right.
He said three to five million acres of land of coastal districts of Thatta, Sajawal and Badin has come under sea intrusion, which followed displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
Shah said that the nature provided water to all species around the globe on equitable basis. “Indus River is not property of anyone. It is not property of Sindh, even. It is the property of the nature,” he said.
Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said that minerals in the land of Sindh were considered as the property of the whole nation, while water below the lands of Punjab was not included in the divisible pool.
He suggested underground water should also be included in the divisible pool. Indus Water Treaty was not Sindh’s treaty. It was signed without consensus of Sindh by Punjab, he said. “There is a need to quantify the underground water,” he said, adding: “Provinces should be given rights over natural resources according to 1940 resolution.”
Karamat Ali said that 84 acres of land of Sindh’s coastal areas was being occupied daily by the sea intrusion. It would reach a large number in a month or maybe a year.
Zulfiqar Halepoto said that saving ecology did not mean saving Indus Delta only. It means saving the whole ecology of the Indus River.
He said national water policy was a big framework, which provided alternative to dams for water conservation. “There is a need to revise political agenda for Indus water, as well,” he suggested.
Gul Hassan Kalmati, Nasir Pahnwer, Comrade Vishno Mal, Abdul Khaliq Junejo, Dr Ayub Shaikh, Mehwish Laghari and Yasmeen Shah also addressed the conference.