What happens when the Indus doesn’t reach the sea? – Prism

The Indus Delta was once prosperous. Today is the home of suffering, discouragement and death.

The Indus River, the vertebra of our country, travels 3,200 kilometers in total and, if taken care of, is able to provide sustenance for everyone, from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea. But without the release of fresh water in the Indus, the coastal region of Pakistan is drying up. The fifth largest delta in the world is shrinking.

A delta forms at the mouth of a river, when the river sheds its load of sediments, before encountering a slower body of water, such as an ocean, sea, lake, and sometimes another river.

The tidal currents of a fast-moving river eventually weaken, making it difficult for the river to carry more sediment load. The sediment is dropped into a delta, which makes it a very fertile area, before the river concludes its journey by joining another body of water.

The Indus Delta, this encounter between Abasin (Pashto for "Father of the rivers") and the Arabian Sea, was once a union of prosperity. The residents there used to be merchants, farmers and fishermen. Today is the home of suffering, discouragement and death.

Related: How to revive the Indus Delta

Extending in the form of a fan, the Indus Delta covers an area of ​​41,440 km² and approximately 210 km where it meets the sea. It has reduced many folds over the decades. It is a complex ecosystem, consisting of swamps, streams and the seventh largest mangrove forest in the world, and now threatened.

It also houses several species of fish and the famous Indus pink dolphin, as well as being an important stop on the migratory bird route. A dying Indus Delta restricts migration and can lead to the extinction of many rare bird species.

A source of ecological services and economic benefits, the Indus Delta was added as a wetland site to the 1971 Convention on Ramsar Wetlands, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Pakistan currently has 19 wetlands designated as areas of international importance under the convention, and almost half of them are under medium or prominent threat levels.

Villain One: Government

Discriminatory water policies in Pakistan have left the Indus Delta dry. The data reveals that the flow of water under the Kotri Barrage gradually decreased after the construction of the Mangla and Tarbela dams, except in the high flood years.

Under the 1991 Water Distribution Agreement, Sindh demanded that at least 10 million acre-feet (MAF) of water be released beneath the Kotri barrier. But between 2000 and 2010, the highest number was 5.8 MAF in 2008-9, with the lowest number being 0.2 MAF in 2004-2005.

The flow of water from the Indus to the delta is controlled through the Kotri Barrage, located about 174 km from the mouth of the river. This flow is now only seen during the rainy season or in high flood years, when it is assumed that excess water will drain below the barrier in any case.

Without the release of fresh water in the Indus, as a result of the construction of dams, the river loses its speed when it meets the Arabian Sea. In the absence of a freshwater flow that acts as a rival shield, the opposite saline seawater strongly invites the delta and damages the soil, plants, animals and fish species there.

Without fresh water, depletion of the fish population and mangrove forests are causing the loss of livelihoods and food sources for communities that depend on it. 80{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of the fish caught on the coast of Pakistan spend at least a part of their life cycle dependent on mangrove streams. Freshwater flows are also supposed to help resist cyclones and tsunamis.

Read below: With the death of the rivers of Pakistan, are their ancient cities running out of time?

In addition, as seawater intrusion submerges and erodes large areas of land, salt water begins to creep into underground aquifers, leaving them unfit for human consumption. A direct consequence of all this is migration, generally to already overpopulated urban areas.

The link between the lack of freshwater flow and the invasion of seawater is not space science. If I had to guess, the government has made a calculated decision to ignore the need to release fresh water in the Indus on the pretext of saving it for agricultural needs. If managed properly, there is plenty of water for both.

The Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan glaciers, our largest sources of fresh water, are melting at unprecedented speed. Logic dictates that this melting of glaciers should be entering our rivers and creating a surplus. But we are told that apparently Pakistan has no water. If the country cannot manage and conserve water now, imagine what we will do once we lose our treasured and neglected glaciers, what we will do, as things stand.

While many parts of the country were victims of a false "dam awareness plan," the people of Sindh feared greater water diversion. The unequal water distribution policies that typically serve the interests of only two provinces are a massive political failure on the part of our successive governments.

Villain Two: Climate Change

Climate change has further exacerbated the problem, and sea level rise is an obvious consequence.

According to the Pakistan Fishermen Forum, marine intrusion has eroded almost 3.5 million acres of farmland since 1956 and more than 2.2 million acres of farmland in Thatta and Badin districts. In addition, mangrove forests that serve as a barrier between the sea and the coastal region and help reduce soil erosion are constantly depleting.

A report by the Asian Development Bank suggests that sea levels are expected to rise more than 60 centimeters by the end of the century and "will likely affect the low-lying coastal areas south of Karachi
towards Keti Bander and the Indus River Delta. "The intrusion of seawater will also cause large-scale water accumulation and soil erosion in the highlands due to higher tides. The creation of dams in the Indus will dramatically aggravate the situation by reducing sediment load and The river flow downstream.

In addition, reports suggest that by 2050, Thatta will be completely underwater. In fact, many coastal areas in Badin and Thatta have already been submerged by rising sea levels.

One year of PTI: Fixing how we deal with the climate crisis

As the third largest ice mass outside the world poles, the Himalaya-Karakoram-Hindukush glaciers, melt, they can initially bring more water to the Indus Delta (and also increase sea level), but eventually they will leave the area at the mercy. of rains

The Indus Delta already experiences little rain, with an estimated average of 25 cm to 50 cm annually. With altered weather patterns, which include prolonged heat waves and persistent droughts, relying solely on rain for agriculture in the region is quite impossible.

Erratic climate patterns induced by climate change (altered levels of precipitation, increased frequency of torrential rains and frequent tropical cyclones) are another episode of misery for the inhabitants of the Indus Delta. A temperature increase of five degrees Celsius is expected in the delta region by the end of this century. This would increase the amount of water required for domestic consumption, animals and crops by almost 1.5 times.

Stuck at a unique crossroads between being submerged by seawater and living in a state of drought,
The Indus Delta and its inhabitants suffer the most intense impacts of climate change.

A possibly happier chapter?

The 2012 National Climate Change Policy recognizes the vulnerability of the Indus Delta to climate change. However, when exactly the government intends to adopt the measures mentioned in the policy remains a mystery.

The construction of dikes that function as walls to stop marine intrusion along the coastal belt has been a partially successful measure. They are cheap and effective short-term solutions. However, the problem is that the levees do nothing to prevent seawater seepage into underground aquifers.

A Sindh bombing project of Rs125 billion was approved by the federal government in August. This would include the construction of a 12-meter high barrier in the Indus at a distance of 45 km from the sea. The project, which is expected to be completed by 2024, aims to address the problems of erosion and land degradation due to seawater intrusion.

A sad conclusion

While the tireless efforts of some organizations to revive the delta continue, we must make a promise to ourselves: that other fragile ecosystems in Pakistan should not end in this way.

In July of this year, almost 1,500 farmers marched 140 km to Thatta to protest against water shortages in the Indus Delta. They sang a song that translates to: Wake up, O heirs of Sindhu, save her, help us to cross this broken ship to the other side.

If things do not change dramatically, there will be no need for boats. We will have nowhere to go.

Are you exploring the impacts of climate change in Pakistan? Write to us at [email protected]

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1505725/what-happens-when-the-indus-doesnt-reach-the-sea


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