Karachi: Fishermen Celebrate Bill to End Contract System

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Legislation must be implemented, warns PFF chairman:

KARACHI: Fishermen across the city finally have something to cheer about now that the Sindh Assembly has unanimously passed a bill to abolish the contract system on water.

“More than 300 lakes are under the control of influential people, a few of them who belong to the ruling party, and these persons are not willing to give the water sources back to the fishermen,” said Muhammad Ali Shah, chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a nonprofit organisation working for the rights of fishermen in the country.
Shah credited the fishermen’s long struggle against the contractual system for the provincial assembly’s decision to pass the bill.
“The government has announced that a committee will get the lakes back from the influential persons and identify bona fide fishermen, but it is not clear who will represent the committee,” he said.
In a month-long struggle that started on November 28, thousands of fishermen organised protests and rallies under the PFF’s banner.
Shah hoped that the government would implement the legislation.
According to him, the contract system in Sindh was started in 1977, when some influential persons were awarded contracts on a political ground. They took control of some water bodies and started to charge fishermen for using the waters, thereby harming the fishermen’s only source of livelihood.
The fishermen were compelled to hand over their entire catch at meagre rates to the contractors.
The statement issued by the PFF said that the recent floods have created a ray of hope for the fishers of the province because the water has filled lakes and ponds. Fresh water lakes, which were drying out earlier, have become more rich with fish but the only way fishermen can benefit from this is if the legislation introduced by the Sindh Assembly is implemented in letter and spirit.

(Published in daily Express Tribune, on January 15th, 2011)


What’s in fish?

Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children’s proper growth and development.

However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury ingested by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

In addition, fish also contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxic industrial compounds that were banned in 1979, but that persist in the environment. Fish absorb PCBs from contaminated sediments and from their food. You can limit exposure to PCBs simply by trimming, skinning and cooking your catch to reduce fatty tissue. But, unlike mercury, which you can eliminate from your body over time, PCBs are stored in body fat for many years.

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