A zoological survey department (ZSD) team tasked with surveying Manchhar Lake found hundreds of migratory birds, some even endangered, slaughtered and their meat being sold at the local markets of nearby towns.
It is important to mention here that Dadu taluka, where a portion of Manchhar Lake is located, is closed for hunting.
“The team was astonished to see hundreds of slaughtered coots on sale at the main market of Bhan Syedabad. Slaughtered species included endangered ducks like white-eyed pochard (a globally threatened species) and tufted duck (a rare bird found at the wetlands in Sindh),” said Mehrban Ali Brohi, senior wildlife preservation officer who headed the Islamabad-based ZSD team.
“Unfortunately, every winter the lake and its surrounding areas become a slaughter house for these birds. Hundreds of them are killed daily and their meat is sold at local markets of Manchhar town’s surrounding areas, including Sehwan Sharif and Jhangara,” he added.
According to Mr Brohi, the birds are usually trapped with the help of mist nets, which are installed near the lake in shallow waters along with a tape recorder attached to a battery. The birds are misguided by the sounds of ducks, coots, egrets and other water fowls played by the device and are caught.
“The provincial wildlife department seems to have no control over poaching. We are not only fast losing our bird population but also violating the international law as Pakistan is a signatory to several important conventions for protection of birds and their trade, such as, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and the Ramsar Convention,” he pointed out.
Highlighting the significance of the lake, Mr Brohi said that the water body was one of the largest freshwater lakes of the subcontinent and once home to millions of waterfowls and numerous fish species. However, increasing salinity and other pollutants, lack of food and ruthless hunting had brought a sharp decline in the number of bird visitors and fish over the years, he added.
The pollutants, he said, were largely coming from the Main Nara Valley Drain that carried agricultural wastes like fertiliser and pesticides. The lake had lost the flora which provided nesting and roosting grounds to birds. The ecological devastation of the lake had also badly affected communities earlier depended upon the lake for sustenance and now had turned to bird hunting.
“Some species have become rare while others do not stay at the lake for more than a day. According to the last survey conducted in 2008-09, about 60 species of water birds and 40 species of common terrestrial birds were recorded from five selected sites of Manchhar Lake, ie Bhajara East (Rakh Ghulam Ali Shah), Shah Hassan, Garkano, Danistar Wah and Chandan Wah,” he said.
Replying to a question on the current survey, he said that it would resume in January to collect more details on the status of migratory birds in the peak season.