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Pakistani Indus delta's peoples and thair Communities problems
Indus Delta of Sindh and problems of peoples
This study contains a description of two primitive tribes Jat and Fishermen (Mirbahar) who are living in or near Indus delta which is 356 KM long. It stretches over an area of 600,000 hectares between Karachi and south-western border of India. Indus River before falling in the sea divided in to channels and forming a triangular shape which is called delta. How delta is formed?
Rivers carries water along with silt which later on being deposited at the transition belt of river and sea. This process when continues for centuries it creates paths and in this way delta is being created and extended.
The water shed area of Indus River is about ten lac square kilometers. Its water carries huge amount of silt out of which the great quantity flows in to the sea and smaller part of it is being deposited in the river.
In the past this river use to carry almost 40 crores tons of silt annually which was being deposited in to sea and area of delta kept on increasing. Indus delta consists of numerous creeks, extensive mud flats, sand dunes, salt marshes and salsola foetida (lani), tamarix dioca (lai), mangroves and other flora and fauna
Jat and Fishermen
Jat and Fishermen two main communities living in the Indus delta are by birth Sindhi. Their native language is Sindhi, but some sub casts of Jat people spoke in Jatki accent. They are energetic and shrewd, although simple and uneducated and became attracted to the idea of making detailed sociological study.
Their customs and traditions are almost similar every where. How ever the Jats differ from some of the other ethnic groups in their customs and nature. Jat and Mirbahar are further more divided in to sub casts. They usually spent their life in roaming for fishing and browsing of their herds of camels and other live stock on the fringes of the creeks. The animals mostly graze the grasses porterasia coarctata and Aleropus insignis which are commonly found on some of the mud flats and the fringes of the salt marshes. They also eat young Avicennia marina. Some of them are permanently settled house holds in the areas which receives sweet water during the monsoon season. They store some of this water in ponds or small creeks for use during periods out side the monsoon season. Some also use hand pumps to extract ground water. This water is used for a period of about four months after the monsoon. The ground water had a salinity level between 1.5PPt to 5PPt which is well above the permissible level of 1ppt for human consumption.
The said communities are facing lot of problems some of them are discussed as under.
1. Shortage of drinking water
2. Health problems
3. Illiteracy problem
4. Pollution problem
5. Fishing related problems
6. Unemployment and poverty problems
Shortage of drinking water:
Main problems faced by Jat and fishermen communities are a direct result of the reduced flow of sweet water in to the Indus delta. This resulted in a shortage of drinking water for people and live stock. It also resulted the decline in agricultural activities and intrusion of the sea in to the coastal agricultural land. It also increases the saline ground water level and sea level. Over the last six decades several dams and barrages have been constructed in the upstream areas of the Indus River which is main cause of shortage of water. Decrease in flow of sweet and fresh water in down Stream of Indus River, another aspect of destruction of Indus delta and its mangrove ecosystem is also a matter of concern. In recent past about 70 years ago Indus delta were receiving 847 MAF of fresh water per year, which carries huge quantity of slit which decreased to 150 MAF per year and carrying with it 400 million tones of slit and now it further decreased to 35.2 MAF (ICUN report 1994).
This short flow carrying with it the quantity of silt is estimated to be only 100 million tons per year which ultimately resulted increase in sea level and destruction of mangrove eco system.
Jat and fishermen communities are deprived of better health facilities due to poor economic conditions. They have no access to the health institutions and they also have no health awareness. There are two Taluka hospitals in Jati and Sakro. One basic health unit kharo chan and one rural health center Shah Bundar and one for keti Bundar at Baghan. The Agha khan University has established a primary Health care center which has been providing health services, family planning and training courses for volunteers such as Dispensers and vaccinators etc. In Shah Bundar, keti Bundar and Kharo chan the villagers who are permanently settled near these Hospitals take benefits from these health Centers but those people who are far away from the permanent settlements and roaming on their boats for fishing or grazing of their camels and other livestock are deprived from health facilities.
Though they suffered from serious diseases mainly Malaria, Hepatitis, T.B, etc but they depends only on self medication that are the paracetamol and resochine tablets easy available even on little shops.
In Shah Bundar, keti Bundar and Kharo chan and coastal areas of Jati and Ghorabari almost 99% people are illiterate. According to one survey report of 1998 in Shah Bundar (East) subsystem there were only 7 primary schools for 4790 people, in Shah Bundar Central sub system 7 primary schools for 4908 people, in West Shah Bundar and kharo chan 8 primary schools and 7 mosque schools for 11008 people, in Keti Bundar 11 primary schools and 12 mosque schools for 11798 people, Karachi East sub system Mirpur Sakro has 4 primary schools and 4 mosque schools for 5095 people
Although at this period (2007) situation has been changed the mosque schools have been merged in primary schools and the number of primary schools has also been increased but it did not have changed the literacy position of deltaic people. Folk do not send their children to the school because they help them in labour work.
Mostly fishermen spent their time on the fringes of creeks on their small boats for fishing activities far from their schools. Unfortunately they are deprived from the basic right of education indeed.
Indus delta receives highest wave energy during south west monsoon. In past high power discharge of Indus river water faced that highest wave energy which now is reduced and the wave energy is causing severe erosion in some areas of Indus delta.
The levels of pollution in the coastal waters and creeks are increasing due to increase in population and in increased coastal development along the creeks and coast line. Storms water drains and domestic wastes from human settlements along the creeks and industrial sewage also increase Pollution load. According to one study report the salinity of water in the tidal areas of the delta has increased to a level hyper saline conditions (recorded during April may 1997). The larger creeks have become actually in land seas i.e land ward extensions of the Arabian sea
Pollution in the marine environment affects the growth pattern of mangrove. Indus delta receives short flow of water, peoples and live stock have no alternate but to use saline and polluted water which resulted harm to their lives and create health problems for them.
It has now been realized all over the world that the degradation of natural environment consisting of air land water and forests bio diversity is occurring fast in developing countries. Unawareness, increasing pressure of population, over exploitation of the natural resources and disposals from various sources are some causes of environmental pollution. Short flow of sweet and fresh water in Indus River is additional cause of environmental problem in Indus delta. In June 1992 United Nations Conference on environment and development (UNCED) or Earth summit held in Rio de Janeiro Brazil in order to attract that attention of all planners economists and environmentalists throughout the world. With the funds from Government and the World Bank Environmental protection and resource conservation project (EPRC) was started in 1993/94. The aim was institutional strengthening and environment natural resource rehabilitation.
Fishing related problems:
The main occupation of Jat and fishermen communities are fishing and fishing related activities. These communities owing to the primitive mode of life and methods of fishing they possess old type of nets and Boats that is way majority of them did not receive sufficient catch of valuable fish. On the other hand big trawlers use non judicious fishing technique by using the Jari, boola and katra nets and catch valuable shrimps and fin fish which they sold on high price and earn much more than local people.
Over fishing, non judicious fishing technique, increased water salinity, water pollution and destruction of mangrove vegetation are the main identified causes for degeneration of the fish resources.
Small fishermen are totally at the mercy of middlemen who are money lenders. They rely upon them for the selling of their catch that used to buy their catches at the prices fixed by them. Mostly the nets and food and other related articles are supplied to the fishermen by the money lenders. If any one who take risk to take his catch to Karachi fish harbour due to lack of infrastructure facilities and transportation as the carrier boats are very slow and bad weather conditions take a much time to reach landing centers locally known as Mian and when it reaches the market due to its small shelf life it gets a low price as its low quality does not attract consumers or buyers. Untrained fishermen not take enough care to maintain the quality of fish. Catch is handled very roughly resulting in poor quality fish reaching in the market and gets low price.
According to one report the fisheries main problems are a degeneration of the fish and water resources and post harvest losses. The degeneration of the fish resources mainly manifest it selves in a reduced presence and catch of valuable species. For example the catch per unit effort of kalri and jaira (two valuable shrimp species) has declined by 25% and two valuable fin fishes i.e palla and dangri whose catch has declined from about 600 tones each in 1986 to about 200 tones in 1995.
Unemployment and poverty problems:
Unemployment and poverty are the main problems of Jat and fisher men communities. There is no law for the employment of local people in fishing related projects and other development projects of Indus delta. Fishing business is in the hands of middle men or big traders. The poor people are totally on the mercy of those traders. They work on sharing/pati system.
The role of the middle man is exploitative to the extent that he monopolies the prices which are low compared to the Karachi fish market prices, otherwise he is helpful to the fishermen every time even when they are unhealthy and sick and not on the catch trip. Middle men also bear the repair cost of damaged or sick boats. They also help them at the time of happiness and sorrows. It is easy for the fisher men to payoff the loan in form of fish catch with no time limit. Money lenders do not charge any interest from the fishermen. Middle man however is beneficiary in this system and fishermen are under heavy pressure, cannot look for other source of income and could improve his living conditions.
The income of these communities is not fixed as there is no consistency in earned income per week or per month. This depends on the catch of the fish and the market price or the price that the middle man or traders pay them. There remains ban on fishing during the month of June and July (Breeding season).
According to study report, the fishing rights in the creeks of Sindh coast seem to be controlled by some influential personalities of the ethnic groups. They divided the waters of the creeks amongst them selves. The middlemen have most influence on fishermen of the low income groups, and much less on the well established group of fishermen. The poor fishermen are burdened under heavy loan provided by the middle men without interest. The fishermen become bound to sell their catches to the middle men on rates decided by them selves. The fisher men who have taken a loan from one middleman can catch fish in the creek areas that are believed to be the middleman’s property. No fishermen dare to sell their catches to any other person if he does so he will have to face the consequences
The other source of Income is live stock keeping. Members of Jat community keep the majority of the livestock. After the monsoon season there remains acute shortage of sweet drinking water and boats for camels and other livestock deliver the water. Due to shortage of sweet drinking water and shortage of grazing areas the number of camels and other live stock is decreasing.
According to Bureau of statistics, Government of Sindh estimates for 1989 the population of 0.527 million inhabit in reverie areas which may have grown to 0.730 by the year 2000 at the growth rate of 3%. Women are actively involved in crop husbandry and contribute significantly to the live stock tending and related activities. The literacy level is significantly low as compared to barrage areas. The health, education, infrastructure and other social facilities are nearly nonexistent. Consequently the quality of life is poor.
Pakistan's Indul Delta Near Karachi
Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif Tomb
Frequency and percentage distribution of the respondents by the number of family members
No. of Family Members
1 to 5
6 to 10
11 to and above