Press Release: 4th June 2010 – The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (Headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and with an office in Brussels, Belgium ) held its 10th General Assembly session in Rome, Italy from 27 to 29 May 2010… Sindh is represented at the UNPO through World Sindhi Institute, based in USA and Canada, and is also represented in the 11 member Presidency (steering commitee) as well.
Sourcing Haidarabad – By: Kanak Mani Dixit
Even though PIA Flight 269 was bound from Kathmandu to Karachi, I was excited to visit the Sindhi Hyderabad. For too long, the Deccan city and capital of Andhra, with its IT glamour, had wrested the limelight from its humbler counterpart. Lo! Even the screen indicating the Pakistani Airbus’s flight-path showed the Deccan Hyderabad, but not the city by the Indus to which I was bound.
From the Karachi airport, ‘Haidarabad’, as it is properly pronounced, is a two-and-a-half-hour drive through the rolling desert along the M9 motorway. The city is reached after descending a plateau and crossing a rivulet – in actuality, the great River Indus in its emaciated present-day avatar. There, a traveller crosses eastward, over a bridge that seems too long for a flow this miniscule, even though it is supposed to be the consolidated flow of all six tributaries upstream. India has tapped the three eastern rivers under the auspices of the Indus River Treaty, and Pakistani Punjab takes copious draughts from the remaining three.
The inhabitants of Sindh seem impelled by the force of history to speak of their great past – the great Indus civilisation and its archaeological remains, the conquests of Iskandar, the rise of the Sindhi language, Buddhism, Sufism and the arrival of Islam. Those were the times when the Indus flowed with strength, and contrasts with a beleaguered present are unavoidable. With the river nearly gone, Sindhis seek to preserve their pride in the Ajrak block-printed shawls that are presented to visitors, and in the vibrant Sindhi press that challenges Urdu as the language of political discourse.
VOICES FROM MEKONG
By – ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT
When 42-year-old Zhang Chun Shan, a Chinese farmer-cum-activist , told a public forum in Bangkok this week that he was unaware of the negative impact his great nation’s hydropower projects have caused to neighbouring countries downstream, a hundred participants understood him.
“I feel sorry for you; the downstream communities have problems with their fisheries and floods [after the dam construction] but we upstream people face the problems of soil erosion and villagers’ relocation,” said Mr Zhang, director of Lijiang City Environmental Volunteer Organisation.
The forum, entitled “Mekong Mainstream Dams: Voices Across Borders” was held last week at Chulalongkorn University.
How could the Chinese people know of the suffering of people in other countries? They do not even know about the hardships of their compatriots. “Because the local and central governments never tell anyone how we – communities affected by dams – are suffering,” mourned Mr Zhang, who comes from Yunnan province.
Niwat Roykeow, a former headmaster of Chiang Khong School in Chiang Rai province, accused the Chinese dams – Manwan, Dachaoshan and Jinghong – of causing the heaviest floods in Chiang Saen in four decades last August.
“At least three districts have yet to recoup the financial loss of 85 million baht, not to mention the heartbreak of being fooled by authorities that dams help prevent flooding, serve agriculture and produce electricity, ” said the 47-year-old Niwat.
He called on China to take responsibility for the suffering of the downstream people and urged the lower-Mekong governments to be more collaborative with their own people in seeking compensation from the upstream nation.
China expert Vorasakdi Mahatdhanobol from Chulalongkorn University said that if China wants to rise gracefully and in a sustainable manner, Beijing needs to conduct an impartial study of its dams’ impact on the riparian countries and release it publicly.
But the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) chief executive officer Jeremy Bird argued that the MRC’s own study showed that the Chinese dams did not contribute to the flood; it was a natural event.
Montha Achariyakul, a community organiser in Bo Keo, Pongsali and Luang Prabang in Laos, said the Lao people did not believe rainfall was the cause.
“Headmen in northern Lao provinces warned their villagers that China would release more water from their dams. Despite the alert, a thousand households and their rice and corn fields were damaged,” said Ms Montha.
Montree Chantawong, from Thai People’s Network for Mekong, added that the MRC River Monitoring website still showed a “green sign” for Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong during the week of August 11-14 even though the area was inundated at that time.
The two-day seminar was not meant to talk about the already-built dams or to point the finger at any particular agency, but to raise awareness and plead for policy-makers at all levels, national and regional, and among international organisations as well as the private sector, to pay more attention to the voices of the people living along the river.
Participants were trying to forge a more concrete solidarity in order to hold future projects accountable to the people. Those projects are now at their doorstep.
Over the next few years, Laos is said to be constructing at least seven dams with a total electricity generating capacity of 7,470 megawatts, while another two Thai-Lao projects will see a total of 3,409mw dams. Cambodia will have a 980mw dam in Stung Treng and another 2,600mw dam in Sambor.
Investors from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Russia and Vietnam are reportedly involved in the projects at Pak Beng, Luang Prabang, Xayaburi, Xanakham, Lat Sua, Don Sahong in Laos, and at Pak Chom and Ban Koum along the Thai-Lao border, and two provinces in Cambodia.
The seminar also saw a strong argument regarding the impact on fish stocks in the world’s seventh largest river, if more dams were to be built mid- and downstream of the Mekong.
“The issue is not about what will happen to the fish, but to the people whose livelihood relies heavily on fishery along this river,” said Chris Barlow, from the MRC Fisheries Programme.
The Mekong has the world’s largest inland fishery with 1.5-3 million tonnes a year. In 2000 it was 2.6 million tonnes, said Mr Barlow, adding that the real fishery economy was estimated at US$2-3,000 million per annum.
The MRC fish expert noted that reservoir fisheries could not compensate for lost river fisheries and aquaculture could not be a full replacement for captured fishery due to the added costs and different beneficiaries.
Professor Philip Hirsch from the Australian Mekong Resource Centre said that unless the 1995 agreement that created the MRC was revised to include civil society voices and concerns into the government-dominate d process, future relations between the MRC and civil society would remain an unfruitful dispute.
Apart from the agreement amendment, the colossal task is to accommodate China’s entry into the sub-regional body, noted Mr Hirsch.
So the MRC, NGOs and other players needed to find ways to overcome the lack of meaningful engagement that has marked the past 13 years, he said.
Jonathan Conford of Oxfam Australia, took the Asian Development Bank to task for failing to live up to its pledges of poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and sustainability.
At the ADB’s annual meeting early this year, president Haruhido Kuroda listed as priorities in the ADB’s new long-term strategic commitment, more of the same agenda – infrastructure development, regional integration, private facilitation – all under the banner of inclusive growth, said Mr Conford.
But the weight of accumulating evidence in the Mekong Region, he said, is pointing to the need for a fundamental rethink of the GMS orthodoxies around infrastructure, growth and poverty alleviation.
“Sixteen years of accelerated infrastructure development and natural resource extraction have led to irrevocable damage to the region’s ecological systems and hugely growing disparities between the rich and the poor and between ethnic groups,” the Australian activist said.
Dr Sombath Somporn, the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay award recipient for community leadership, said Laos may consider itself as a battery of the region by supplying electricity to Southeast Asia, but for how long can it sustain this?
“We need to re-educate the young people that water and light are interlinked; if we use water unwisely or energy unwisely we will have none left. We should not consume till everything depletes.”
Dr Sombath also called for more corporate responsibility in implementing hydropower projects.
“Shareholders and board members of concerned agencies including the Mekong River Commission, and the Asian Development Bank should be held accountable to their noble pledges to fight against climate change. Stopping building or supporting construction of the non-EIA-checked dams is one way to help prevent global warming,” he said.
He suggested that maybe it was time for ecological degradation to be accounted into the monetary cost of carrying out a project.
Courtesy and Thanks: Bangkokpost.com
Govt should not build small dams, says Abbasi
By Mohammad Hussain Khan
HYDERABAD: Eminent water expert and former chairman of the Technical Committee on Water Resources (TCWR) A.N.G. Abbasi said on Friday that small dams were more harmful than Kalabagh dam and advised the government to refrain from building them.
In a surprisingly strong, rural mass movement in Sindh – the first such political movement outside the cities that Pakistan has seen – thousands have continued their defiance of General Zia’s martial law regime. At least 38 people have died in the protests. According to opposition sources, 80 are dead. The opposition claims 7,000 have been arrested or successfully ”courted arrest.” The government acknowledges that some 1,400 Sindis are under arrest.
Driving through Sindh’s interior, where slate hills turn to desert and large tracts of rice, wheat, and cotton fields are flooded by monsoon rains, one is struck by the poverty. There are few development programs here.
People live on the margin of an agricultural economy. One passes through a score of hamlets and villages hugging the banks of the Indus River.
In recent weeks, they have all, in one way or another, protested against the Zia regime or gone on the rampage. They have defied police lines, been beaten back by teargas or a lathi charge. They have burned government buildings, disrupted transportation links, broken into Sindhi jails and court buildings, or engaged in general strikes.
Inside the dirty, overcrowded jail in Dadu, one of Sind’s most violent, up-river towns 200 miles from Karachi, 77 political prisoners told why they were willing to defy martial law, endure flogging, and go before special military courts-martial whose sessions last less than five minutes.
Their reasons for submitting to the punishment are as eclectic as the four provinces of Pakistan.
The province of Punjab, they acknowledge, is the key to the longevity of the Zia regime. If the country’s most populous province, its breadbasket and dispenser of army positions and posts in the federal bureaucracy, does not enter the protest, Zia and his army will probably be able to control the situation here in Sindh.
But, that is not the end, they add quickly. In Sindh, the fuse has been lit. And, if the protest is confined within this southern province’s borders, if others do not join, it will give far greater impetus to the more radical voices favoring Sindi independence, a movement called ”Sinduh-Desh.”
All of the young men crammed into one of the barracks of Dadu’s prison want to speak. They include medical students, provincial government civil servants, workers, shopkeepers, and peasants. Most are supporters of Mr. Bhutto’s Pakistani People’s Party, which has always dominated the politics of Sind. Others belong to the ”Sinduh-Desh” movement or are followers of the traditional ”sardars” or hereditary ”pirs.”
Some are political protesters, demanding a return to democracy and the end of martial law, others are protesting Zia’s Islamization program – most interior Sindis are Sufi Muslims who charge that General Zia has made heresy of the Koran. Still others are there at the behest of their ”sardars,” who have refused to pay the Islamic ”usur” land tax, on their vast holdings, which dominate the Indus River valley of Sindh. Some are here because they went to the streets to avenge Mr. Bhutto’s death. Others are followers of G. M. Sayed, the father of Sindhi nationalism, a hereditary ”pir,” who is the guiding force behind the Sinduh-Desh movement.
Strangers here are eyed with suspicion. But when people discover a journalist , they immediately want to talk. It is not surprising that their primary topic of conversation is their long-time resentment over domination by governments, armies, and bureaucracies coming from the Punjab region.
By Waseem Shamsi
SUKKUR, May 17, 2008: The ashes of Nirmala Deshpande, an Indian peace and human rights activist, were immersed in the Indus River at the steps of the Sadhu Bela temple on Saturday. The peace activist had said in her will that her ashes should be immersed in all rivers in South Asia.
A 250-member delegation representing the India-Pakistan peace committee, whose members arrived here from different parts of Pakistan, participated in the ceremony to pay homage to Nirmala Deshpande for her efforts for making South Asia a peaceful region for all nations.
Respected internationally, Nirmala Deshpande played a leading role in various peace movements in South Asia over the last six decades.
It was her desire to make South Asia a region free of nuclear weapons. She also played a key role for bringing people of different religions closer to each other.
The peace committee delegation was led by secretary Karamat Ali and attended by member Miss Anoosha Alam and her nine-year-old daughter Nisa Alam.
Nirmala Deshpande had desired in her will a young girl should be employed for performing the immersion ceremony.
In accordance with the will, the ceremony was led by little Nisa Alam. Immersing ceremonies for Nirmala’s ashes have already been performed at Ganges and Jumuna and other rivers in South Asian countries.
Courtesy: Daily Dawn