Coastal village women gifted solar lanterns

Coastal village women gifted solar lanterns

This story depicts the life of communities residing close to the sea, facing cyclones, floods and increasing salinity due to the sea level rise. Sea intrusion has put the people most vulnerable, facing displacement. They being live ion far off areas do not have access to electricity. Each family spends Rs100 for a litre of kerosene oil to light a traditional lamp. In fact the price of kerosene is lower in the urban market, these people spend more cost, equal to petrol.

Recently a group of philanthropists, comprising businessmen from Karachi and some from US came to visit a coastal village Haji Umar Jat, Thatta district to donate 300 solar lanterns among the well skilled embroidery maker women.

It was the first time for these tribes’ women, who attended a programme, different than their traditional gatherings. Otherwise, they usually gather at shrines located at distantly islands, where they travel by boats. The tribal bindings force them to stay at home or work in fields or boats with their family members.

The event was organized by a non-governmental Sindh Coastal Development Organisation in collaboration with UNDP Global Environment Facility (Gef) Small Grants Program, LEDtronics and Shan Technologies Karachi, which attracted more than a dozen philanthropists, who were eager to donate these gifts to the families living in the most neglected areas.

Masood Lohar, Country Director of UNDP Gef SGP said “this unique initiative is like a war against darkness, which we have started a few months back with this group of philanthropists.”

A group of these philanthropists have, so far, donated 3000 solar lanterns to the communities in the different areas with setting up five basketball courts to promote recreational activism among the youth.

Maryam Issa, leading the group of philanthropists, expressed the hope that these solar lanterns will support the skilled women to continue their work at nighttime. We have brought little gifts for 300 women of this area with a separate basketball court, also equipped with solar floodlights for their children.”

“We are seeing the skills, generosity and lifestyle of these people. Let us think how to adopt this village with providing all the basic facilities to it, specially health and education,” said the US-based Pakistani philanthropist woman.

The people in coastal areas are the most vulnerable in terms of tsunamis, cyclones, floods and droughts. The people being frightened whenever receive warning call of tsunami, cyclone or flood they shift their families hurriedly to avoid any loss.


Depleting natural lakes, a threat to desert ecosystem

A profile of Kalankar Lake


Kalankar Lake

This story depicts the situation of a complex of once scenic natural lakes, which were formed long ago when an old Hakro River would stream to the sea from the existing Tharparkar district, the desert area. It was also said to be the part of Indus Delta long ago, because the country coast is still bordering the desert district.

After years due to lack of government policies landlords deprived these wetlands of their share of water, discarded the same to dry. Politically influential persons even encroached upon the dried parts of the lakes and using the land for cultivation.

These lakes official have been linked to Nara Canal for receiving water. But due to different approach by the landlords and government officials these abandoned lakes turned into brackish water ponds because of frequent shortage of rains and blockage of the fresh water streams. This impacted badly on the ecosystem of Thar desert and destroyed resources of livelihoods of the communities, fishermen and herders living along the lakes through generations.

Flocks of birds, local and migratory birds used to come there, which have changed destinations because of depleting wetland, shortage of feed and its water quality.

These community people– fishermen use smaller boats operating without engine and herders wandering behind the herds of cows and camels—have more to say about the prosperous days they spent and rich biodiversity.

Major portion of the old Hakro river bed was the natural stream of the rain water to avoid floods, but it has been encroached for cultivation with building infrastructures, now causing flood destruction.  After several years, the lakes receive rain water when the flood-2011 hit the province and the communities heaved a sigh of relief, hoping they might remain safe.

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) struggling to restore these lakes by ensuring their water share like agriculture to preserve ecosystem and avoid impacts of climate change.

Impacts of Chotiari reservoir on communities and ecosystem

Read the story at this link.

This story focuses on the impacts of Chotioari Reservoir, spreading over around 1,800 hectares and covering 30 kilometer area in Sanghar’s desert zone, called White Desert.

The dam was designed with building stone-pitched embankment from one side, leaving the other three sides, which are open from sand dunes.

Environmentalists call it an ecological disaster, as it has not only destroyed the source of living of farmers, herders and fishermen, it has also impacted badly on the ecology.

The dam area was complex of around 60 small and big lakes, some of them are known natural habitats of several species of birds, reptiles and small mammals. The story I have designed with 20-year journey (visiting occasionally, twice or thrice a year to see the change.)

A report of WWF-Pakistan, 2008 reveals that Chotiari reservoir is home to 14 species of large and 19 species of small mammals, 109 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles and amphibians and about 53 species of freshwater fish.

The most important and globally endangered species of the complex wetland site is the Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). The construction of reservoir embankments has divided the system in isolated wetland pieces and has definitely triggered the environmental disasters.

WWF-Pakistan with local community-based groups has been focusing on recovery of endangered species, sustainable rangeland management, promotion of sustainable fishing practices, management and control of seepage, provision of alternate energy and reforestation for the growth and improvement of livelihood.

There were herder families, enjoying separate states for their livestock. But gradually, they are facing as if losing the land under their feet. Because, water logging and erosion have not only shrunk grazing fields and islands it is also threatening to the life and livelihoods of communities and disturbing wildlife.

WWF-backed eco tourism project has introduced installing solar energy benefitting community with kitchen gardening, growing vegetables, fruits and grasses at the wider courtyards and open fields, where vegetables were not the choice of the communities. The eco center is attracting people to visit area, once the rich in biological diversity, where now communities are struggling to rehabilitate and promote the community forestation, protecting remaining grazing fields.

Helping vulnerable communities to live a safe life

This story is based on Community Vulnerability Assessment made by WWF Pakistan. This report attempts to highlight the risks facing coastal communities that inhabit Jiwani (Gwader District of Balochistan), and Kharo Chan and Keti Bunder (Thatta District of Sindh).

This study presents a brief overview of how climate change, even within a short span of 10-20 years, is causing irreversible harm to the Indus Delta Eco-region and its inhabitants. The voices of the Indus Delta’s inhabitants will lead the way to a greater understanding of how this landscape is changing. It intends to serve as a clarion call to government officials, policy-makers, civil society organisations, donors, and concerned bystanders that the survival of the Indus Delta and its inhabitants, humans and animals, is at stake.

Subsistence agriculture, in the areas where CCAP works, is an important source of food and income for poor and vulnerable communities. Since agriculture is highly sensitive to climate variability and change, it is a key area of adaptation. These key points should stimulate greater urgency in addressing vulnerability among poor communities in coastal Sindh and Balochistan.

As communities living in coastal areas, and elsewhere, face changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and depletion of freshwater supplies, improving water storage and making irrigation water supply and use efficient becomes paramount. While these changes will threaten productivity in irrigated areas, areas such as Jiwani will become even more vulnerable to drought and changing precipitation patterns.

It is considered that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and media have a great potential for communicating climate change information, and encouraging adaptive behaviour among audiences i.e. vulnerable communities and people.  ICT can be used to record data and information, transform data and information into shareable knowledge, and communicate this knowledge in easily comprehensible and appealing ways. Effective use of ICT does not rely on vast capital or investment outlays. In fact, the main part of adaptation activities can be realised at a small scale, with little investment, and can be built on existing communication systems.

In addition to providing vital weather and early warning information to farmers, fishers and local communities, ICTs can also be used for other resilience building measures. For instance, farmers can be provided with phone contacts of agricultural extension workers and livestock health workers to access advice and support on treating crops and livestock, seed varieties, planting times and methods. Market access for fishers and farmers can be improved by providing them with phone contact lists of traders from nearby markets so that they can inform themselves on market rates for their products, and can negotiate better prices.

Peoples experience learning also contributed to design strategies, provide alternative source of earnings.

Read the story here.

Winter, the sea and coral reef

This story focuses on the changing wintering pattern, it’s intensity and impacts on marine life, specially fish in Pakistan’s coastal area. Local fishermen, comparing the present situation to the past, say that now neither winter is coming normally, nor is the normalcy in sea. Earlier, this season was limited for 40 days, pushing fishermen to stay idle at home. But now the winter enters with full intensity and ends the similar way, affecting fishermen for more than two months, as fish moves to coral reef.

Fishermen also link the increasing boat incidents in the open waters to the unusual high tides, grabbing fishing vessels down without obvious reasons. Ending year 2012 experienced horrible boat incidents, in which more than a dozen people died in Sindh and Balochistan provincial coastlines. Fishermen Cooperative Society and other organizations working on the welfare and development of the fisher community do not have exact data of boat incidents and deaths of crews, while they were busy in their livelihood activities in the open sea.

Fishermen do not take risk to move their boats to the open seas during the winter and facing hardships, because they depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

Similar is the status of coral reef, the natural beauty, because of unchecked over fishing, issuing licenses to deep sea trawlers. Irony is that there is no data of these happenings, coral reef, fish stocks and the changing situation.

These all happenings contribute to put the communities more vulnerable to face impacts of changing weather, sea storms and loss of livelihoods.

Read the full story.