Pir Bhakkar, Sindh – Fishing was central to Muhammad Kasim’s life. His family has been fishing near the Indus River for generations. However, recently floods in pakistan turned his village, Pir Bhakkar, into a swamp.
Now, his family’s job and major source of income are in jeopardy until the water recedes.
The unprecedented floods have affected the livelihoods of millions of people across Pakistan, destroying crops and livestock, including fish, two main sources of income for rural households.
The fishing industry, valued at $650 million and a major source of income for many in the southern province of Sindh, is facing an uncertain future. Record rainfall causing flooding could be the new normal as climate change increases weather patterns.
It’s not easy for rural fishermen like Kasim. Lakes and ponds are often owned by landlords, who first ask locals to pay a fee to fish. Other landlords pay the fishermen a daily wage to catch fish, which they keep and sell themselves.
Kasim lives within 10km of a pond and three canals and 20km (12.5 miles) from Indus. When floods hit his village, locals eagerly fished without paying their landlords, casting fishing nets in flooded areas. Their efforts were futile. Fish from ponds, lakes and rivers quickly overflow into the nets and disappear in the flood water.
Income from fishing is highly dependent on the season. Flooding occurs during the peak fishing season, which means that this year fishermen will have to look for other options to make ends meet.
The monsoon season in rural Pakistan is usually greeted with glee, but many now fear further rains. They are suffering from what can best be described as “climate anxiety” – a term that has not yet been translated into Sindhi.
Kasim worries his son will be forced to abandon the long family tradition.
There are many other problems. Decades of overfishing in the Indus have depleted fish stocks, prompting the Punjab government to introduce a 10-year ban earlier this year on commercial fishing in the river. Even so, illegal fishing continues.
Last week, the Pakistani government launched the “Living Indus” initiative to restore the river’s ecology, so that the Indus Basin can become resilient to climate change.