Sindh’s shrinking desert wetlands may go dry

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Karachi: The vast scattered desert wetlands of Sindh, the natural habitat for several types of migratory birds and wild animals, are now shrinking.

The local residents, who rely on the same wetlands for drinking water, apprehend that if some measures were not taken immediately the wetlands would go dry.

Manzoor Mallah, the resident of a small fishing village Goth Bachal Mallah in Umerkot district of Sindh told News Lens Pakistan, “In the past, water in these lakes used to be fresh and we would fish there. Because of reduced water level and contamination there is no fish left. It seems that we will soon lose these lakes.”

Achro Thar or White Desert, spread in the eastern side of Sindh province along the Indian border, comprises of districts of Sanghar, Umerkot and some parts of Khairpur.  Achro Thar is known as country’s strange desert with several desert wetlands, most of which remain undiscovered.

According to Hussain Mallah of Dhoronaro town of Umerkot district, the known wetlands include Bakaar (located near Khipro district of Sanghar) commonly known as Khipro lakes, the vast scattered wetlands of Kalankar, Paalaaro, Bodarr, Seeroi, Daisaen, Burthi, Modakar and many more. But, now these wetlands are shrinking at alarming pace.

The officials of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Pakistan have conducted a research that these desert wetland complexes were shrinking; either because of climate change which caused erratic weather patterns such as lack of rain, or modification in water regimes such as changing in irrigation management or practices.
Director of Indus for All Programme, World Wildlife Fund for Nature—WWF Pakistan Rab Nawaz said, “Desert wetland complexes are important habitats that are quite uncommon around the world. They provide ecosystems that are very unique in terms of their biodiversity.”

He confirmed that these wetlands were shrinking which would cause animals and human population to suffer. “Managing the water is a very important part of managing these unique ecosystems. It is very important to establish and maintain the minimum and maximum water levels. It is also important to protect the flora from livestock and flooding,” added Nawaz.

These strange desert wetlands of Sindh are not only important for fish, migratory birds and other wild animals of the area but several types of the traditional rituals of indigenous fishermen community are also based on these lakes.

“In the past when these lakes were in better condition, local fishermen would hold gatherings for their relatives and offer them fish at family-fest, but now depleting fish population in these lakes has also affected such festivals,” said Salleh Muhammad, fisherman in Kalankar Lake.

“Desert wildlife has its own habitat which is not dependent on any wetland. Therefore, I do not think that these wetlands may affect wild animals,” said Javed Ahmed Mahar, the Conservator of the Sindh Wildlife Department.

Talking to News Lens Mahar said that in the past some migratory birds from cold countries were reported on these wetlands due to the presence of fish there, but not any other wildlife is dependent on these lakes. “However, we have not conducted any study to calculate the level of contamination in these lakes,” he added.

How the reducing water level and increasing salinity in these unique desert wetlands are posing threats to the wildlife of the White Desert has yet to be calculated, as Sindh wildlife Department has not conducted any survey.

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