Freshwater, Fish and the Future: Proceedings of the Global Cross-Sectoral Conference

Review of the Decline in Freshwater Natural Resources and Future of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture: Threatened Livelihood and Food Security in Indus Valley, Pakistan

Muhammad Naeem Khan

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9789251092637.ch19

Abstract .—Pakistan is blessed with an abundance of diverse natural resources. The Indus River and its rich agriculture valley with five tributaries is the world’s largest man-made irrigation network of canals. Earth-filled dams and barrages are commonly used across an estuary to capture tidal power from tidal inflows. The Indus River watershed also includes freshwater lakes, floodplains, and waterlogged areas. Inland aquaculture ponds are fast emerging in the Indus River.

The sustainability and historic agricultural superiority of Indus Valley agriculture due to the use of water from the Indus River for irrigation for 5,000 years are now under severe threat due to a rapid population explosion of 200 million people. In addition, the Indus River is also threatened by the release of untreated industrial and municipal effluents into the Indus River and other freshwaters, increasing salinity, waterlogging as a result of ice melting and an increase in water table, global warming, drought, and poor management, which have led to degraded aquatic habitats and unhealthy, collapsing artisanal fisheries.

Pakistan is at high risk of food insecurity in the coming decades because of drought and climate change. It is universally believed that climate change will impact future freshwater availability and ultimately the freshwater fish and fisheries. This paper discusses growing food insecurity, a decline in inland fisheries, and the ecological degradation of freshwater in the Indus River system, Pakistan.

This paper suggests alternate mitigation efforts, such as aquaculture, to compensate for the decline in freshwater capture fisheries, to address the growing threats to livelihoods and food security of the poor inland fishing community.