Footprints: Fishermen live in fear of sea.

IT'S a misty winter morning in the Indus Delta. Haji Muhammad Moosa Jatt jumps into his boat like a young man.

Moosa, now in his 60s, has been a fisherman for decades, but this year's fishing season has put a new soul into his aging body.

'The delta has received plenty of freshwater from the mighty Indus River after 12 years. This means there are fishes in plenty,' he told Dawn, happily standing at the deck of his 20-feet-long fishing boat.

And that, he says, has happened after a decades-long wait.

'The fishermen are happy. Their families are happy too,' quickly adds the bulky man. He passes on instructions to his crew before setting out on a voyage from Keti Bunder, one of the oldest jetties in Asia.

Nearby, young fishermen are bringing new nets, carpenters are repairing old boats while mechanics are fixing faulty engines. It's a sign of busy days ahead this year.

Covering his head with a white Arabic-style scarf indicates that Mr Jatt was once prosperous enough to have performed Haj. This prosperity, however, vanished decades ago.

Moosa Jatt's village is named after him, attesting to the prestige the veteran fisherman has earned over the decades. His fishing adventures were not limited to the delta and or the Arabian Sea, but went as far as to the Gulf.

Over the past decades, however, his activities have been restricted to the Arabian Sea - that too in salty waters - because the delta has been dying slowly but surely.

Dr Altaf Ali Siyal, the Dean of agricultural engineering faculty at Sindh AgriAculture University, Tandojam, explains why.

'The condition of the delta is worsening day by day. The main reason is non-availability of freshwater in River Indus,' he says.

'But luckily this year we have got plenty of water due to rains in Balochistan and Sindh. Since July more than 42 million acre feet (MAF) of water has passed through the Kotri barrage and gone into the Indus delta. 'Certainly it will boost the environment, ecology, aquatic life and revive the delta.'

According to available data, Dr Siyal added, the Indus delta was spread over 13,000 square kilometres in 1828-29 and had 17 creeks. But now it has only two active creeks - Khobar and Khar. And the active area has fallen to just 1,050 square kilometres - a 90 percent plunge. 'This is alarming.'

'Certainly the environment, ecology, and coastal life have been affected due to non-availability of freshwater,' he reasons.

Delta is a place where the Indus falls into the Arabian Sea in...

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