‘Environmental flows designed to maintain at least some natural flow variability along river’s length’
ISLAMABAD – Highlighting the threats to the Indus Delta, a study calls for transparent and inclusive process to prioritize country’s natural assets by focusing on conservation and better management practices. The aim of the study is to help make inform decisions around the use and management of water in the wider Indus River basin.
The report titled ‘Indus River: Review of Environmental Flows to Maintain Delta Ecosystem’, written by Dr. Christopher J. Gippel, was released by WWF-Pakistan. The report is part of a project Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP).
Environmental flows are designed to maintain at least some natural flow variability along the whole length of a river so that people, animals, and plants downstream can continue to survive and make use of river resources’. This was stated by Ali Dehlavi, Senior Project Manager, Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP), WWF-Pakistan.
Based on the findings of Dr. Gippel’s report on environmental flows of Indus River, Dr. Ghulam Nabi, a sediment transport modeler and hydrology/water resources engineer, launched a policy brief in which he recommended conserving natural resources and biodiversity downstream of Kotri Barrage. He also suggested maintaining environmental flows by formulating environmental flow improvements for the lower Indus Basin.
Threats to Indus delta
The main threats to the Indus Delta include reduced freshwater flow, construction of dams and various canals, encroachments, clearing mangroves for agriculture, reduced sediment loads, habitat destruction and pollution. However, the study says the threats do not necessarily impact the delta in isolation, and implementation of any environmental flow initiative would also need to consider mitigating other non-flow related threats to the area’s health.
Dr. Gippel’s study highlights that overall demand for water from the Indus River exceeds supplies, and stressed for an agreement on the rules for sharing available water among the environment and other users. The study also notes that intrusion of seawater inland has presented a surface water problem for people living in the delta, and for riparian plants and aquatic organisms that prefer freshwater.
Among the recommendations from the experts is a call for a transparent and inclusive process enabling stakeholders to prioritize natural capital assets and agree on their desired future health. ‘The report is intended to help inform decisions around the use and management of water in the wider Indus River basin,’ Ali Dehlavi added.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Ghulam Nabi said that the report was developed keeping in consideration inconsistencies in reported flow and sediment data. Previous reports contained conflicting information regarding delta size, delta rate of change, mangroves area, saline intrusion and connection between surface and groundwater. He suggested that most of the differences could be resolved by undertaking an expert review and if necessary commissioning specific research to address uncertainties.
The report launch was attended by officials from various government departments, NGOs representatives, and academia.