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SAVE THE RIVER INDUS: ACTIVISTS GATHERED IN LONDON AND LOS ANGELES

JOINED THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY IN CELEBRATING 14th MARCH – THE
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR RIVERS

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Responding to calls by the International Rivers Network (IRN) ansd

Friends of the River Indus (FOTRI), World Sindh Congress (WSC)
commemorated the International Day of Action for Rivers on Monday,
14 March 2005, with two events in London, UK and Los Angeles, CA,
USA. These events were organized to raise awareness about the River
Indus, one of the largest rivers in the world, which flows through
the provinces of Pakistan.

Sindh, currently a province of Pakistan, has long been the victim of
Islamabad’s gross injustice and the plunder of her natural
resources, including water and public lands. Sindh contributes 67%
of the total revenue of Pakistan, yet the provinces still suffers
from underdevelopment and high unemployment rates.

One of the biggest issues facing Sindh and other small provinces in
Pakistan is the Pakistani government’s firm determination to build
big anti-humanitarian and anti-environmental dams, such as the
Greater Thal Canal and the Kalabagh Dam, on the upper riparian of
the Indus River. These dams will have a disastrous impact on the
economy and ecology of Sindh, Balouchistan, and Pakhtunkhwa, three
of Pakistan’s four provinces. The only province poised to benefit
from the dams is the Punjab. The provincial legislatures of the
three negatively affected provinces have passed resolutions against
the Kalabagh Dam, and the Sindh Assembly has passed two resolutions
against the Greater Thal Canal, but Pakistan’s military refuses to
acknowledge these protests.

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In London, WSC staged a peaceful protest rally at Parliament Square
in Central London, in front of the UK Parliament House of Commons.
This rally was organized to seek the support of the UK
administration and public in encouraging the Pakistani government to
stop the construction of harmful mega-dam projects.
The rally was attended by Sindhis from throughout the UK and by
other supporters of healthy rivers. The protesters held banners and
raised slogans condemning Pakistan’s anti-environmental polices, the
persecution and killing of Sindhi and Baloch activists, its military
dictatorship, and the development of nuclear weapons.

“More than 90% of 40 million Sindhi people are dependent on the
Indus River,” said Ms Suraiya Makhdoom, the UK and European
Organizer of WSC. “The survival of the Sindhi people, and with them
the survival of hundreds of species of birds and mammals, is now
endangered. Pakistan has built several mega-dams and barrages
upstream that have impeded the flow of the Indus River and its
tributaries to Sindh.”

Ms Makhdoom also condemned the barbarous murder of Samiullah
Kalhoro, Senior Vice Chairman of Jeeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM),
a Sindhi nationalist Party. She explained that Sindhi political
detainees have often been subjected to very harsh treatments and
tortures by the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, resulting in
many deaths.

Ms Hafeezan Talpur said that by building more and more dams on the
River Indus, the main source of livelihood for the people of Sindh,
Pakistan is indeed destroying the whole fabric of Sindhi society.
Ms Talpur said that Pakistani rulers are bent upon keeping every
last drop of water from the people of Sindh by building the Greater
Thal Canal (GTC) and the Kalabagh Dam (KBD). She ended her speech by
declaring “no to GTC and no to KBD.” All of the protesters present
responded in chorus and repeated the same words.

Mr Kadir Jatoi, Director of the World Sindhi Institute in London,
emphasised that Pakistan came into being on the basis of a contract
between the five nations of the South Asian Sub-continent, not
between Muslims of the world. The Pakistani establishment has
created the Sindh water shortage in order to develop Punjab at the
cost of Sindh. The rulers of Pakistan have constantly gone back on
their words in the water agreements of 1945 and even their own
Accord of 1991, which they forced on the people of Sindh against
their will.

Dr Haleem Bhatti, Senior Vice Chairman of WSC, conducted the
proceedings and thanked all the people for gathering on a weekday
despite their personal engagements to protest the illegal
construction of Greater Thal Canal and Kalabagh Dam over the River
Indus by the military establishment of Pakistan.

Those who attended the event included Mr Abdul Jabbar Qureshi,
President, and Mr Shahzado, General Secretary of Sindhi Sanghat UK.

All the speakers demanded international support in resolving this
issue, urging nations that provide Pakistan with economic and moral
assistance to defend human rights conditions in the country and
ensure that any assistance given is used for the benefit of all
regions and peoples in Pakistan, and not selected areas or certain
ethnic groups.

After the speeches, the protesters marched peacefully around
Parliament Square carrying banners, chanting slogans, and
distributing leaflets.

In Los Angeles, WSC hosted a seminar entitled “Indus River Water
Mismanagement Crisis.” Speakers included Saghir Shaikh, Chairman of
WSC, Hassan Mujtaba, an exiled freelance journalist who writes for
the international press, including the BBC, and Mr Irshad Kazi of
the Sindhi Association of North America.

Quoting from the speech of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Nobel
Laureate for Peace in 2004, Dr Shaikh said, “Recognizing that
sustainable development, democracy, and peace are indivisible is an
idea whose time has come.” In his multi-media presentation he
highlighted the findings of the World Commission on Dams regarding
the fallacies of the mega dam construction.

“We are proud to be part of the global community celebrating 14th
March as an International Day of Action against Dams, and for
Rivers,” Shaikh said.

In his paper entitled “Saga of Indus: Past, Present and Future,” Mr
Mujtaba said, “Nations celebrate their rivers, yet many of them
worship them … Sindhis have a special connection with the River
Indus.” He continued, “There would be defeat of peaceful and secular
civilization in South Asia if Sindhis lost their non-violent and
legal fight for their fair rights of water over the Indus.” Mr Kazi
presented a summary of technical, political, and historical
arguments against the construction of the Kalabagh Dam and Greater
Thal Canal.

Participants in the seminar passed the following resolutions
unanimously:

* As mega-dams are very damaging to the ecology and destructive to
the livelihood of people downstream, we urge international
institutions not to finance any effort to build Kalabagh Dam or any
other large dams in Pakistan.

* We demand that Pakistan impose water conservation measures,
including replacing water intensive cash crops with more suitable
food crops, requiring drip irrigation, lining the canals, banning
private lawns, and plugging leaks in water supply lines, so that the
natural flow of water can restored without depriving people of their
livelihoods.

* We demand an end to anti-environmental activities such as dumping
sewage and industrial waste into Indus and its tributaries. We
demand pro-active steps, such as the construction of fish ladders to
restore Palo fish and barrage bypasses for the Indus dolphins, to
give animals of the Indus free reign within their natural habitats.

* Since the Tarbela and Mangla Dams have drastically reduced the
flow of silt into Sindh, accelerating its desertification by
preventing topsoil replenishment, we demand that the Pakistan
government convene international experts to recommend the best
approach for restoring the flow of silt, including dismantling the
dams if necessary.

* We reject all water treaties imposed by Pakistan on Sindh and
demand the institution of a process that will restore the status quo
ante of water distribution that existed prior to the creation of
Pakistan.

* Until the existing mega-dams are decommissioned, we demand that
the Pakistani government ensure an adequate supply of water to
replenish the forests of Sindh, fill its natural and historic lakes,
and provide a continuous supply to the delta.

* We demand that all water disputes between Sindh and Pakistan be
resolved through the International Courts, because we cannot rely
upon the institutions in military-governed and Punjab-dominated
Pakistan to ensure fairness.

In addition to WSC, numerous other organizations, mainly Jeay Sindh
Quomi Mahaz, Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Awami Tahreek, Pakistan Network for
Rivers, Dams and People, Sindh National Council, Sustainable
Development Policy Institute, and World Sindhi Institute joined the
calls of IRN and Friends of the River Indus by arranging a variety
of programs, including prayer for the River Indus, seminars,
protests, and rallies in various parts of Sindh.

About the International Rivers Network (IRN): IRN is an
environmental, economic, and social activist organization that
supports local communities working to protect their rivers and
watersheds. IRN works to halt destructive river development
projects, to encourage equitable and sustainable methods of meeting
needs for water, energy and flood management, and to develop a
worldwide understanding of the importance of rivers and their
essential place in the struggle for environmental integrity, social
justice, and human rights. For more information, visit
http://www.irn.org/.

About the International Day of Action for Rivers: 14 March 2005
marked the eighth annual International Day of Action for Rivers.
Last year, thousands of people from around the world took action to
protect living rivers and protest projects that would harm them.
They marched to dam sites, held river blessing ceremonies, organized
conferences and photo exhibits, and participated in hunger strikes.
This year, events were planned around the world to continue to
increase global awareness of river and watershed issues, and to
celebrate successful efforts of river protection. For more
information, visit http://www.irn.org/dayofaction, or email
dayofaction@irn.org.