HYDERABAD: The livelihoods of the fishermen, who live along the coast of Karachi, Sindh, are likely to find themselves stranded due to the development of loosely regulated housing communities on the nearby islets, where they operate.
Muhammad Hassan Birwani, a fisherman from Ibrahim Hydri, the largest fishing area in Karachi, remembers the past saying he was very young when he started going to nearby islands, including Dingi and Bhandar near the Phitti and Korangi rivers with the elders in small boats. .
Since then he still went there in his boat to catch. They have a traditional fishing technique known locally as “lathe jo ban or ban jali”. Special nets are required in this method for towing and trawling. Thus, this small boat does not need to travel far to the high seas for fishing.
In this practice, fishermen form two groups consisting of five or six groups. One group remained on the boat, while the others took up positions on the island to pull a wide net toward them. It took them two or three hours to complete their catch. On their way back to the landing site, they sort the catch for the market.
Fishermen say certain islands and streams have the potential to catch fish. Whenever they face restrictions, such as weather-related fishing bans, they move their boats to these islands to meet the needs of both.
There are about thirty fishing vessels in the area each carrying 15-16 crew. These small-scale fishermen follow the phases of the moon, looking for natural tides to leave their jetty to catch fish. There is no definite timing for this type of fishing, as it depends on the tides, which they are always monitoring. Once they find them profitable, they go out to sea, sometimes in the morning, and at other times in the afternoon or evening, depending on the situation.
This ship catches all fish species available in the area, including shrimp and crab. Each worker on board can earn Rs1200-1500 daily through this particular fishing method within two – three hours.
Elderly fishermen have fond memories of the past and the changes they witnessed during their 50-60 year career. Apart from the people who use these “ban jali”, several other boats also travel to the islands to stay there briefly to wash nets and other equipment. Otherwise, these islands are uninhabited. However, because of the beautiful scenery, they sometimes attract picnics.
Birwani owns a small boat, which he operates for routine trips. He was aware of new developments on the islands. “We are always challenged on trips to the islands by personnel from certain coastal agencies. But we always choose to compromise and continue to chase our catch because our family needs it to survive, “he said. Commenting on this specific fishing method, Akhtar Shaikh, a community activist and trader, dealing with the seafood business at the pier, said, “Some people have taken this technique to a higher level because now they are using two boats to tow and trawl. where the crew drags the net over the boat, instead of doing it from the island ”.
But the majority of people still use traditional methods of trawling and trawling, which they think are easy to fish, Shaikh said. He said there were also several other island villages off the Karachi coast, including Khahi, Khudi and Paityani, inhabited by a small number of families, living there for generations.
“These places are covered by mangroves all around, providing storm protection for the people who live there.” This island family also uses the same technique to catch fish, which they sell to traders, coming to them every day. Entire families including women and children work to contribute to their survival.
Talking about the twin islands, Dingi and Bhandar, which are located near the famous tributaries of Phiti and Korani, he said, “Both places are considered potential fishing grounds and a small number of people nett their livelihoods from these waters.
There are small patches of mangroves near the islands, but they are uninhabited. There are about 74 islands named by the community. If not, there may be more small and large islands along the Sindh coast, which are spread over some 350 kilometers. Asif Bhatti from the Native Indigenous Fishermen Association (NIFA) from Pulau Bhit, Keamari, said that the development of the island city is bad news for the future of the fishing community.
Nifa represents residents living in the well-known island villages of Baba, Bhit, Salehabad, Manora, and Shamspir near Keamari, the Karachi coast, which is home to mostly fishermen, living there long before the development of the metropolitan city.
“Once the island cities develop, investors may need more land for expansion and they may push all of us out of our homes to reach their targets,” fears Bhatti. “We are afraid to see that we may be relocated and may have to leave our settlements sooner or later. “There is no clear statement in the notification to release the island village,” he said.
When interviewing elderly fishermen, it was found that they only wanted guarantees of livelihood protection. They fear that their traditional routes to potential fishing areas near tributaries and the high seas will be impeded by this development.
Many elderly fishermen have seen the development of Karachi and claim that their ancestors contributed greatly to building the city. Ayoub Shan, who works to promote education among coastal community girls, said, “The majority of fishermen lead a simple life centered on livelihoods. They avoid involvement in socio-political activities ”.
“Poverty and unconsciousness in society can be measured by the fact that many Ibrahim Hydri people never travel to urban areas, not even for pleasure or entertainment.”
Shan said uncertainty has always loomed over them in the form of ups and downs of weather, rain and now the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing a lot of trouble for fishermen. “They do not realize their rights or take away the fishing area, which they rely on, even though they are natural custodians of these resources,” he said.
He said climate change had made coastal communities vulnerable to disasters and this man-made development may prove to be the final nail in the coffin. “Mangroves, a natural shield from disasters like cyclones, can be destroyed in the name of development. If that happens, it will not only deprive fishermen of their livelihoods, but also leave residents along the coast and in cities vulnerable to heat waves and disasters, ”he said. Shan urged the government to step in and examine the uncontrolled and planned urbanization of these islands, off the coast of Karachi, in the hands of money-minded builders and developers.