This section deals with the policy, legal and implementation aspects of the equitable sharing of benefits from Pakistan’s biological resources. It is supported with case studies on biological resource usage and steps that have been taken or are required, and projects that are underway.
12.1 Pakistan’s Responses
An important component of the CBD is that of the equitable benefit sharing of biological resources. Part C of Article 10 requires each Contracting Party to protect and encourage the customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements; to support local populations in developing and implementing remedial actions in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced.
This aspect of the CBD has not yet been adequately addressed in Pakistan. However, The BAP has touched on this issue by stating that NGOs should be involved in the conservation of protected areas involved in the process. Unfortunately, the equitable benefit sharing of biological resources has not been dealt with directly. References in existing laws on land, forestry, fisheries and wildlife do give an idea of the understanding of the state on the equitable benefit sharing of biological resources. However, there is no direct policy statement on this.
The implied response of Pakistan to this component of the CBD can be obtained from the projects that have emphasised community participation and mobilisation, and the joint management of natural resources and empowerment. There is no project on the promotion of the traditional use of biological resources. Some initiatives, however, have been taken to promote income sharing from biological resources and provide income to the local communities. This is in the shape of an ecotourism project by the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan for the blind dolphins (See Box 13 for details). NGOs like SUNGI20 have been advocating that the revenues earned by the state from forest harvesting in the high hills should be shared with the local population.
The Mughal King Akbar made the first piece of land legislation in the sixteenth century for India; it forms the basis for all subsequent legislation of Pakistan. All land was considered, as state owned, of which there were two categories of users: the landowner and the tiller. Parcels of land were then allotted by orders of the royal court called firmans. The property owner had to pay a tax or revenue in exchange of the benefits obtained. The British colonial rulers followed Akbar’s land administration and made certain legislation. The land tax was again treated as a rent payable to the crown. Pakistan adopted the Land Revenue Act of 1887 in the shape of the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act 1967. This act is applicable in all provinces, except the tribal areas. Under this Act, title to land, tenancy and lease, land revenue, assessment of land value etc are addressed. The colonial rulers awarded large parcels of land as fiefs (called jagirs) to powerful locals who promised allegiance or as reward. Nevertheless, through land reforms, the Jagirdari system is vanishing. Forest settlement that declares forests as reserves is made under the Forest Act, 1927. Rights of the local people in the forests like grazing, grass cutting, rights to water, etc. are settled and legal. The rights once acquired are non-transferable except by inheritance. The Land Revenue Act also governs the land under the rivers.
21The fisheries sector is controlled by a host of departments and agencies under the Fisheries Act 1961 and the Maritime Act 1976. These include the ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) Islamabad that controls fisheries business through the Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) Karachi, the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) and the Korangi Fish Harbour Authority (KoFHA), though located in Karachi are controlled by different departments. The former is controlled by the Sind provincial government and the latter by the MINFAL. The Fishermen Co-operative Society (FCS) Karachi, a non-governmental organisation looks after the interests of the fishermen engaged in the marine sector only. The post of the fisheries Development Commissioner was created to handle the fisheries development work. The provincial fisheries departments handle fisheries business in the fresh waters of the respective provinces under the fisheries laws (given in table 1.1). Their activities include auction of fishing rights, except for the breeding season. Establishment of hatcheries and release of fish fingerlings is also a part of their duties. The departments also encourage commercial fish farming in the private sector. The present situation is that every possible pond, lake and marshes are auctioned to collect revenues. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) an autonomous organisation however handles the same duties in the fresh water dams of Tarbela, Mangla. Warsak and Hub dams. Issues of Biodiversity like introduction of exotics, non-fish aquatic fauna as dolphins are no priority of the fisheries departments. The traditional fishermen communities called Mohannas (who know no other skill for a living) before the advent of fisheries legislation were relatively more free. Now they cannot fish in their traditional fishing waters; they have to work for the fish contractors. Fish contractors usually pay in advance in the shape of commodities (mostly food) and deduct the amounts from the catch of each Mohanna on daily basis during the fishing season. This misery can be judged from the case study "The Cycle of Despair" Box 12.
Traditional natural resource management systems have declined with the advent of state-controlled protected areas and the creation of centralised management agencies. Although many rural communities have developed specialised, area-specific systems of use and conservation, current laws recognise few of these systems. On the other hand, many traditional activities have become illegal and are now sources of conflict between the authorities and local communities. The case study given in Box 12 regarding Manchar Lake highlights this concern.
Box 12: The Cycle of Despair22
“Why you are coming after every two months,” remarked the woman from the boat. Though visitors are warmly welcomed in rural Sindh, the fishermen community of Manchar Lake has become sick of visitors. As we met the woman named Lal Khatoon in the boat, she said that the golden days of Manchar have passed when a thousand tons of fish were caught. Now the colour and taste of fish has changed. "The former Chief Minister Abdullah Shah had introduced the new seed of fish in the lake but that also does not give any fruitful result,” says Lal Khatoon. According to her, almost each house of the area is in debt. They also purchase grocery items on credit at high rates. The shops are also located in boats. Women have very little for entertainment. They meet in the evening on the boats and chit-chat, and sometimes they sing folk songs. Men arrange chicken fights for entertainment. In marriages, boats are decorated. A huge amount of money is taken as a loan from the contractor and is spent on marriages. Having huge feasts in marriages is a matter of prestige. Once an indebted person comes in the control of the contractor he never gets rid of the debt and remains in the vicious circle of poverty and the credit remains for generations.
"We also go to our spiritual leader Pir Mattal Shah who lives in the lake," says Lal Khatoon. Lal Khatoon prays to Allah that Chandan Main Nara Valley Drain (MNVD) i.e. outfall of the Right Bank Outfall Project (RBOD), which has spoiled the lake, should be stopped immediately.
The Right Bank Outfall Drain Project (RBOD) is a long-term project. It aims to drain out saline water on the Right Bank of the Indus River. Under the Right Bank Master Plan, developed by M/s. Mott Macdonald, WAPDA has undertaken drainage works on a priority basis that includes the construction of the link canal. This canal would dispose off the effluent from the RBOD into the River Indus. Presently, this effluent is disposed of in Manchar Lake through the MNV drain. The Main Nara Valley Drain has been further widened and remodelled to drain saline water. The RBOD has direct outfall in Manchar, which has not only affected life around and in the lake, but has also disturbed the heritage of Sindh. Under the project, the drain is being constructed to eliminate the outfall in the Indus River, which would again play havoc with the downstream population. This is because there is serious and unprecedented water scarcity in the Indus River due to upstream dams. More than 40,000 people from the vicinity of Manchar Lake have migrated due to loss of their livelihood. This perhaps is the worst migration due to environmental degradation in Pakistan.
Box 13: Conserving the Indus River Dolphins through Boat Safaris23
The blind Indus dolphin is an internationally threatened mammal. Almost impenetrable barrages have carved up its home range. It has virtually no room to move along the great span of the river. This river was once its home territory. The waters of the Indus are polluted by human activity as it runs its tremendous course to the ocean. The dolphin has to compete with man for the fish that forms an essential part of its diet. Occasionally the river dolphin is trapped in fishing nets, which can mean death for the mammal. As is the case in many developing countries, there are limited financial resources to conserve this rare animal.
The Indus River dolphin is a very unusual kind of cetacean. A century of living in the turbid waters of the Indus has meant that its eyes are no longer needed. It has developed a sophisticated sonar system known as echolocation that it uses to steer with and hunt underwater. The current population of the river dolphin is thought to be 500. Its habitat is now confined to the area between two barrages, the Guddu and Taunsa Barrages, on the Indus.24 A relative of the Indus River dolphin, the Ganges dolphin closely resembles it, but is, in fact, a distinct species. Other river dolphins include the Amazon River dolphin and the Yangzte River dolphin, all of which are distinct species. The closest known interaction of the river dolphin with humans is with the Indus Boat people, the Mohannas, who have lived on this river for centuries. The Mohannas too know no home other than the Indus, for they are truly boat people. Their houseboats drift silently up and down the river all year long using only sails and oars to propel them. The boat people are fishermen, who rely on the fishing contract issued by the government to harvest farmed fish on the reservoirs of the Indus barrages and dams. Poverty and neglect imperil the Mohanna's non-invasive way of life, and they suffer from poor health, education and low-income status.
The river dolphin has been featured in the folklore of the boat people, mostly as a benign and harmless creature. Now these two gentle life forms are thrown together into an awkward coexistence as they compete for food and space on the river.
Caught in this impasse of neutrality, the fishermen do not proactively conserve the dolphin, although they are keenly tuned into the behaviour and whereabouts of the dolphin in the river. The Adventure Foundation of Pakistan (AFP), a non-commercial venture, has initiated the Indus boat safari to raise awareness about this ecosystem and its unique inhabitants. The boat safari offers outsiders the chance to live on traditional Mohanna boats, drifting down the Indus with the fishermen to see the dolphin at close quarters and understand this unique animal. The project is aimed at developing an ecotourism product that protects the threatened Indus dolphin by involving the Mohannas to become the protectors of the dolphin. Conservationists in Pakistan are aware of some of the commercialised dolphin viewing tours operating in the world that have resulted in dubious impacts on both human and dolphin interactions. There have been cases when invasive tourist practices like feeding and swimming with the dolphins has been hazardous to both the animal and man. The AFP promotes dolphin viewing as a non-invasive activity, based on the traditional practices of the Mohannas. The closest that the visitors may get to the Indus dolphin is to listen to the continuous vocalisation of the dolphin with a hydrophone placed in the water.
A small co-operative society of the boat people manages and benefits from the proceeds of the ecotourism activity. The AFP is providing technical guidance to the boat people, helping to upgrade their boats, improve safety for visitors and equip individuals to become certified Indus guides. The AFP also helps promote this new activity in the country and in the world by using its close alliances with conservation NGOs such as the WWF, IUCN and the government. As it establishes itself, the boat safari is an incentive and a reward for the boat people to conserve the unique dolphin with minimum disturbance. It also encourages them to value their own traditional way of life and helps promote the off season activities of the Mohannas by refining and marketing their traditional handicrafts, such as basketry and embroidery. In the national context, the government has declared the territory of the Indus River dolphin a protected area. The habitat of the river dolphin is classified as the second most critically threatened ecosystem of Pakistan. The boat safari represents an essential link in the chain to help save the dolphin. As the primary interaction between the animal and the human, the project is a grassroots initiative to enable the boat people to become the protectors of the blind Indus River dolphin.