NA committee on science to discuss sea intrusion

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ISLAMABAD, DEC 23 – The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology will meet on Tuesday to discuss amendments to a bill titled National Institute of Oceanography, 2019.

The National Institute of Oceanography has faced continuous challenges to stop sea intrusion and erosion caused not just by rising sea levels, but also the phenomenon of sediment starvation — a situation when rivers carry minimal debris to delta areas.

During a meeting of the Senate on the issue in March this year, it was noted that of the 16 creeks of Indus Delta, only one, Khobar Creek, now transfers water from the main river to the sea.

It was noted during the meeting that high levels of wave energy and little or no sediment deposits from the Indus River is transforming the delta into a wave dominated setting.

Satellite data acquired from Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) also shows significant loss of land since the 1970s, and that sand dunes, which used to serve as natural defenders against sea intrusion are also eroding rapidly.

Without sand dunes, soil and mud areas will be exposed, which will be easily submerge under seawater.

Thousands of acres of fertile land in Indus Delta have been lost since 1970s

Thousands of acres of fertile land in Indus Delta have already been lost to sea intrusion, affecting some 1.5 million people and displacing many.

Last week, during a meeting of Functional Committee of Senate on Human Rights, a senior official from Ministry of Climate Change informed lawmakers that the sea intrusion could inundate land as far as Hyderabad in the next 20 to 30 years.

In March 2018, National Institute of Oceanography, along with Pakistan Navy and Suparco, suggested Rs650 million project on “Monitoring the Sea Water Intrusion, Sea Level Rise, Coastal Erosion and Land Subsidence along Sindh and Balochistan Coast”. However, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, reduced the amount to Rs411 million and because of it many key project components of satellite imagery and surveys were omitted.

Besides demanding involvement of other departments such as Revenue, Forest, Irrigation, coastal development authorities, Flood Commission and Ministry of Finance, lawmakers have since then committed to emphasising concern to the highest levels including debates during Senate sessions.

In November, 2016, a super moon phenomenon caused high waves and satellite imagery showed sea intrusion up to 80 to 100 kilometers inside the hinterland. While mangrove vegetation in the deltaic area continues to shrink, factors leading to sea intrusion are different in Balochistan, such as human made structures of jetties, protective walls at the coast without proper environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in one of its initiatives proposed establishing 50,000 hectares of mangroves and inland protective plantations and expected to raise 4 million container plants in the nurseries between 2012 and 2019.

The bill titled National Institute of Oceanography Amendment Bill, 2019, has been moved by MNA Syed Fakhar Imam.It is believed the bill, if passed, will be helpful in checking the sea intrusion.

The NA committee will also discuss the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority Bill, 2019, as well as the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources Amendment Act, 2019.

The Council continues its efforts to identify sources of potable water in the country besides coming up with suggestions for improving quality of drinking water.

Until recently, PCRWR identified increased levels of arsenic poisoning in all rivers flowing downstream from India.

A senior official in PCRWR said that arsenic contamination in rivers from India is a matter of serious concern.