Indus delta celebrates rains

ON September 22, around 50,000 people gathered at Kharo Chaan, 150 km southeast of Karachi in Pakistan, for quite an unprecedented festival: the Jashn-e-Indus Delta. Politicians and experts paid tributes to the river Indus, diyas (earthen lamps) were floated, a fair number of young men and women even danced in ecstasy. The event, organised by the Pakistan Fishworkers Forum, had special significance: abundant rains this year had provided people of the Indus delta their share of freshwater after eight long years. Floods that followed the rainfall had swept away a recent bane: the intruding water from the Arabian Sea.

Many, however, fear that the respite might be short-lived. "The damage is very high and the Indus delta needs continuous freshwater to be fully rehabilitated,' says Naseer Memon an environmentalist with the international ngo, lead.A report of the International Conservation of Union's Pakistan chapter (iucn-p) puts the delta's problems in perspective . "The sea has intruded 54-km upstream along the Indus's main course. That this incursion is taking place against the gradient of the riverbed indicates an absence of any retarding factor such as a considerable volume of freshwater in the riverbed. The fundamental cause might be the progressive upstream diversion of Indus's waters and the gradual depletion of freshwater discharges downstream of the Korti barrage