ISLAMABAD (Staff Report) – The WWF Pakistan has stressed conserving natural resources and biodiversity downstream of Kotri Barrage, suggesting maintained environmental flows by formulating environmental flow improvements for the lower Indus Basin.

Under its project Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP), the WWF-Pakistan released a report titled ‘Indus River: Review of Environmental Flows to Maintain Delta Ecosystem’ written by Dr. Christopher J Gippel, during a workshop held on Monday.

“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,” said Ali Dehlavi, Senior Project Manager.

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.

Dr Gippel’s study notes that overall demand for water from the Indus River exceeds supply, requiring agreement on the rules for sharing available water among the environment and other users.

The main threats to the health of 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 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 health of delta.

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, some or all of the time. Finally, recommendations on required environmental flows for the Indus Delta are included in the report.

Among the recommendations is a call for a transparent and inclusive process enabling stakeholders to prioritise 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 said.

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 ground water.

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 workshop was attended by officials from various government departments, NGOs, media representatives and academia.