Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah and UN Resident Coordinator Julien Harneis on Friday agreed to launch the ‘Living Indus’ initiative for ecological restoration of the Indus River basin.
The meeting was attended by Minister for Irrigation Jam Khan Shoro, Principal Secretary Fayaz Jatoi, and UN representatives Aftab Bhatti and Imran Leghari. The ‘Living Indus’ initiative aspires for an Indus basin that can sustain a thriving civilisation, all the way from its sources to the ocean; a basin whose natural resources and ecosystems have been repaired and restored and are resilient in the face of climate change.
The chief minister said that realizing the vision of the ‘Living Indus’ initiative would require using all tools in the toolbox, bringing to bear a wider, deeper mobilization than had been tried in the past, and deploying a level of creativity that would draw from the deep pool of energy and imagination available in Pakistan. He added that there was no “silver bullet” solution to the Indus’ problems.
“Instead, success will come from the multiplication and combination of hundreds of individual approaches and initiatives, which, together, will turn the present trends around,” the CM said and added that the vision of the initiative sets the destination.
“A thousand pathways lead to it, we must tread them all,” said Shah.
Julin Harneis said the initiative was neither a challenge to existing policies and programmes nor a proposal to change the same. He added that instead, it sought to establish the health of the Indus basin at a higher level of urgency and ambition, both through the implementation of a series of new and innovative interventions in the short term and through the identification and deployment of as-yet-untried approaches drawn from and adapting approaches tried in other parts of the world.
The CM and the visiting UN representatives agreed on a working list of 26 interventions/programmes proposed at the beginning of the conversation and vowed to make serious efforts to restore the health of the Indus basin.
They include sustainable development of new and existing protected areas, including zero carbon protected areas; building back biodiversity to restore terrestrial, aquatic and birdlife in the Indus Basin; integrating coastal zone management in the Indus Delta to improve climate resilience; scaling up and expanding geographical outreach for Glacial Lake Outburst Floods initiatives; supporting and scale-up implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation approaches; and green infrastructure for flood control and groundwater recharge.
There would be nature-based solutions for the conservation of the Indus watershed through integrated watershed management and improved management of saline water Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) and Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD).
It was agreed to establish urban forests in cities along the Indus River basin. It was also agreed to establish 100,000 water conservation ponds across the Indus basin owned by communities; ensure sustainable groundwater governance through improved implementation of Provincial Water Acts; set up 10 zero plastic waste cities in the Indus basin, and improve the implementation of effluent treatment for industries and municipalities to prevent point source pollution of the Indus waters.
A pilot nature-based solution to diffuse water pollution from agricultural sources to scale across the basin would be initiated by Living Indus Digital Knowledge Platform – crowdsource knowledge – to improve the basin’s health. They also agreed to set up an Indus Trust Fund to support and scale up efforts to improve the health of the Indus. It also includes the development of legal and institutional mechanisms for the ecological protection of the Indus River system.