World Wetlands Day 2003: Pakistan

13/10/2003

Center for Environment and Development
in collaboration with Oxfam and Institute of Sindhology, University of Sindh Jamshoro

REPORT ON CELEBRATION of WORLD WETLANDS DAY
Feb. 2, 2003

Introduction of CEAD

Center for Environment and Development (CEAD) is committed to work for environment and development. This would be undertaken by producing an information service on environment and development related issues such as sustainable natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, health, poverty, human settlement and impact of environment and development at the grass root level.

Introduction of the World Wetland Day

World wetlands day is celebrated every year on 2 February. It marks the date of the signing of the convention on wetlands held on 2 February 1971 at the Iranian city of Ramsar. On the day, 130 state members signed the treaty called Ramsar convention. The main obligation of signing of the convention was to ensure the wise use and conservation of wetlands. To support this broad obligation, contracting parties were expected to designate at least one wetland as "a wetland of intentional importance" and promote the wise use of wetlands in their territory, create wetland reserves, consult each other about implementing obligations, encourage research and exchange of data and promote training of personnel in wetland management techniques. Wise use is defined within the framework of the Ramsar convention as the sustainable utilization of wetland resources for the benefit of human being in a way that is compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the wetland ecosystem.

Background for celebration of world wetlands day 2003

Wetlands are ecosystems dominated by water, with surrounding flora and fauna being dependent on it. But although a signatory to the Ramsar Convention of 1971, Pakistan has yet to formulate a proper strategy for the conservation of its wetlands, which are eight in number, and scattered in Sindh, Punjab and the NWFP. Not only is there no policy to conserve and develop these wetlands, there is also no visible effort to tackle the threats to these. Dangers to them come from industrial effluents, which are increasingly polluting natural streams, rivers and even the sea.

Eight wetlands - Haleji Lake, Keenjhar Lake, Drigh Lake in Sindh; Taunsa Barrage, Uchhali lake complex and Chashma barrage in the Punjab; Tanda Dam and Thanedarwala Lake in the NWFP - are of international importance and have been designated as Ramsar Sites in the country. In 2001, the country designated eight new wetlands of international importance, bringing the total number to 16 . Six of these, namely Keenjhar Lake, Drigh Lake, Haleji Lake, Indus Dolphin Reserve, Jubho Lagoon, Nuriri Lagoon are in Sindh. With great concern that over the past few years, many of the wetlands in Sindh had degraded due to unsustainable exploitation; increase levels of urban and domestic effluents being discharged into the aquatic environment along with drought like conditions. With the development of large-scale projects in Sindh the scenario had turned to be all the more threatening and serious.

The discharge of sewage, effluents, irrigation and industrial waste into the aquatic ecosystems in Pakistan has become a common phenomenon,. "The organic sewage load depletes oxygen levels in the enclosed water bodies and so reduces the diversity of animal and plant life." It is only through conservation education, that people will understand the importance of the natural world and the urgent need for our sustainable use of its resources, education that brings about improved natural resource management and reduces environmental damage. There has been little attention given towards the concept of "Sustainable Use", involvement of all stakeholders right from policy makers to community based rganizations (CBOs) to work for the concept at grass roots level.

Need for proper advocacy and evolution of pressure groups were felt to be the need of hour, as they may prevent official quarters from adoption of polices extremely harmful for the resources important for ecology, bio-diversity and for the very existence of natural resources including mankind.

The need therefore is to raise public awareness of the importance of saving and developing wetlands along with measures to curb the discharge of untreated industrial effluents into waterways.

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2003 was "No wetlands - no water", in honor of the UN's International Year of Freshwater. The Ramsar Standing Committee thought it fitting to urge celebrants of World Wetlands Day to associate their activities with the IYF in order both to strengthen that worthy effort and to raise the prominence of their own WWD efforts by being among the first International Year of Freshwater celebrations of the year.

Objectives

  • To highlight the significance of wetlands in various components of environment.
  • To apprise the various stakeholders including policy makers, scientists, government organizations and civil society about the threats faced by the wetlands.
  • To highlight the multiple roles played by wetlands such as aesthetic, economic, social, ecological and literary etc.
  • To provide the information to the participants about the importance of the wetlands and of the role that they play in the preservation of the environment.

Methodology

The celebration of world wetlands day comprised on two sessions. The first session was dedicated for presentation of various papers by the experts, while the second session was dedicated for poetry session on wetlands.

Participants

About 150 participants representing cross section of life participated in the seminar.

Venue: Pir Husamuddin Rashidi Hall, Institute of Sindhology, Jamshoro

Date: Sunday, 2nd February 2003

Time: 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Session One

The first session of the celebration was presided over by the Federal Minister, Mr. Mehmood Ali, while Secretary Forest and Wildlife Mr. Shams-ul-Haq Memon and Secretary Environment and Alternate Energy Mr. Mohammad Hashim Legari were Chief Guests.

The Session was conducted by Ms. Nazima Panhwar, who invited a participant for the recitation from the Holy Quran. The Director of CEAD, Prof. Ali Murtaza Dharejo welcomed the participants and expressed his hope that with the support of people, CEAD would contribute for better environment. The Executive Director of CEAD, Mr. Nasir Ali Panhwar presented history and background of WWD. He emphasized the need of considering the multiple roles of wetlands. He said that wetlands are not merely source of fish but play many significant roles, which needs to be recognized. He also informed about the theme of WWD 2003 and its sub themes, which, according to him are very relevant to the context of Pakistan. He informed that there are 39 types of wetlands, of which 30 are natural and nine are man made.

The Secretary Forest and Wildlife, Government of Sindh, Mr. Shams-ul-Haq Memon made detailed presentation on the wetlands of Sindh. He spoke in detail about the plight of wetland and threats faced by them. Mr. Memon informed about the role, his department is playing in the management of wetlands. He said that water scarcity has greatly affected the fragile eco-system of wetlands. However, he urged on the universities and other research organizations to undertake research on various aspects of wetlands of Sindh. He informed that three new wetlands of Sindh have been proposed to Ramsar secretariat to declare as the Ramsar sites. These are Indus Delta, Rann of Kuch, and Deh Akro.

Hafiz Habib Sindhi presented his paper on the situation of wetlands in Thatta District. He said that due to sea intrusion 17 creeks of Indus Delta have been increased to 21. The Director CEAD and imminent journalist Mr. Ishaque Mangrio presented his paper on role of media in preservation of wetlands. He said that media, despite constraints, has contributed significantly in highlighting the wetlands problems. He said that journalists working in Sindhi print media have direct link to the nature and are aware about the problems of environment.

The Chief Executive of CEAD, Prof. Qalandar Shah presented his paper on the cultural aspects of wetlands. He emphasized that wetlands are custodian of cultural heritage. He said that due to depletion of this eco-system, indigenous communities dependent on the wetlands are compelled to migrate towards urban areas. He said that in drought days, the wetlands were the only source of people of lower Sindh. However, currently wetlands are no longer source of livelihood. He said that due to degradation of wetlands cultural aspects associated with wetlands have also been affected.

The Secretary, Environment and Alternate Energy Department Mr. Mohammad Hashim Leghari in his paper stressed that 1991 water accord needs to be implemented in its real spirit. He said that water scarcity has badly affected wetlands of Sindh. He quoted IUCN's study, in which it is suggested that 27 MAF water be released for the survival of Indus delta. He announced that Sindh government has planned a project for rehabilitation of Keenjhar Lake.

The Federal Minister Mr. Mehmood Ali in his presidential remarks said that it is the prime duty of political parties to work for preservation of natural resources and educate the people about their importance. He said that unfortunately, political parties are not playing their due role for the larger interests of the nation and country. The Minister said that each year we are told that number of trees has been planted, but we have hardly seen them. He said that this is high time to work for conservation of wetlands before they get vanished.

Certificates of Merit

Certificate of appreciation were awarded to the journalists/media men for highlighting wetlands problems. Those who were awarded certificates includes:

Mr. Naz Sahito
Mr. Nizam Shaikh
Mr. Nisar Khokhar
Mr. Mustafa Jamalai
Mr. Allah Bachayo
Mr. Ayaz Aaalm Abro
Mr. Jan Mohmmad Mahar
Mr. Imdad Soomro
Mr. Mohammad Ali Shah
Mr. Azam Gopang
Mr. Zahid Soomro

Second session

The prominent poets read poetry on wetlands. The session was presided over by renowned poet Mr. Shamsher-ul-Hyderi. The poets from all over the Sindh came to recite their poetry. Women poets also presented their poetry on the wetlands and related issues.

Media coverage

The seminar received wide media coverage. (pl. seeAnnex-1)

Outcome

The seminar was able to achieve its objectives successfully.

Acknowledgements

The CEAD acknowledges support of Institute of Sindhology, University of Sindh and Oxfam for organizing the seminar.

A Profile

Introduction
Center for Environment and Development (CEAD) is young but growing institution, managed by the group of professionals. CEAD has been established by a group of concerned citizens to undertake innovative developmental initiatives for the sustainable development. The Center has been registered under the Trust Act. The CEAD has taken upon itself to change the current development paradigm, which instead of giving benefits to human beings has resulted in many negative impacts. The CEAD believes that all stakeholders of development should adopt a pragmatic approach for development.

Goal
Promoting good environmental governance for livelihoods security on the basis of equality

Core Areas
" Cultural Heritage
" Dry Land Eco-system
" Disaster Management
" Environmental Education
" Mountain Eco-system
" Poverty- Environment
" Riverine Forest
" Wetland Eco-system

Approaches
" Advocacy
" Awareness Raising
" Research
" Demo Projects
" Capacity Building
" Institution Building

Area of Operation
Geographically, the CEAD would operate across the country, however initially it would focus on Sindh Province. The office of CEAD is located at Hyderabad/Jamshoro, which is center of Sindh. It is strategically located from where majority of districts is accessible within two hours drive including Karachi, capital of Sindh. The great number of universities is also located here, which provide immense opportunity of greater interaction with the academic institutions.

The Structure
The office bearers of the CEAD come from different sections of the society, which make the CEAD a unique organization. The CEAD comprises the well-known and reputed professionals in their respective fields including education, development, community development, environment, media and academia. The CEAD is governed by board of trustees headed by the Chief Executive.
Contact Person
Prof. Qalandar Shah
Chief Executive
Centre for Environment & Development
D-76, MCP Wapda Colony Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan
Ph.0221-771663/877435/877245 Email: cead@hyd.paknet.com.pk

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