DADU: Large portions of Manchhar Lake with concentration of fish have been occupied by armed men of feudal lords and local politicians in collusion with officials of the fisheries department who stop local fishermen from catching fish in the encroached area.The fishermen complained that if they caught fish in the occupied area the armed men snatched all the catch and forced them to pay fine as a punishment.An estimated 4,500 fishermen who had gone to Punjab, Balochistan and other parts of the country after the lake`s water became highly contaminated have returned in the wake of flood which has emptied the lake of contaminated water and filled it with freshwater.But to their dismay, they found that freshwater had been occupied from zero point of MNVD (Main Nara Valley Drain) to Shah Hassan and armed men had been deployed there to watch their movements.
Mohammad Alam Mallah, a fisherman of the oldest and historical village Shah Hassan, said that this stretch of the lake had been occupied by feudal lords. Fishermen were not allowed to catch fish there. If a fishermen was caught fishing in this area without seeking permission from the feudal lord he was fined, he said.Mustafa Mallah of Manchhar bund village said that the occupied area was spread over 60 squire kilometres. Officials of fisheries department were not taking action against the occupiers, he said.Hoot Khan Mallah of Girkano village said that water from breaches in Tori bund brought fish seed to the lake besides turning its water sweet.Khalid Hussain Mallah of Danistar canal said that armed men of the feudal lord subjected fishermen to torture and snatched away their catch if they caught fish in the encroached area.He said that a fish hatchery near Bubak was damaged in recent flood and the fisheries department had not yet repaired it.Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum vice-chairman Mustafa Mirani said that occupation of the lake by feudal lords and politicians had affected business of catching fish and its supply to other parts of the country.
He demanded an end to release of floodwater of upper Sindh into the lake, which he said would again turn the lake water salty. Action should be taken to stop water release from the lake into the river to stop natural seed from flowing into the river.Moula Bux Mallah of Manchhar bund said that fishermen were sitting in the open along the embankment of the lake but the government had not yet started rehabilitation work. Lives of fishermen were as at great risk in this cold season, he said.Environmentalist Aftab Ahmad Mahessar said that the lake water had turned sweet and drinkable after a long period of 15 years but once again feudal lords and local politicians in connivance with officials of fisheries department were polluting its waters by using chemicals to maximise their catch.He called for stopping release of water from MNVD and RBOD into the lake.The fisheries department director Ghulam Mujtaba Wadhar said that it was illegal to stop fishermen from catching fish in the lake. The department had abolished the contract system and introduced licences for fishing in lakes, he said.He said that licence was issued only to fishermen and they had right to catch fish. He had not received any complaints about occupation of freshwater in the lake, if he received complaints against any feudal lord from fishermen he would take action and seek police help, he said.About fish hatchery, the director said that the building and ponds needed to be rehabilitated – Dawn