Posted on 17 April 2023
Multan (March 18 2023): WWF-Pakistan organized two events in Sukkur , Sindh and Kot Addhu , Punjab on March 17 and 18, 2023 respectively to mark the official launch of the Bhulan Dost Programme; a citizen science initiative that aims to engage and empower fisher communities along the Indus River for the conservation of the Indus River Dolphin and its habitat.
Through this programme, 200 local fishers from the priority Indus dolphin habitats in Sindh and Punjab will be engaged to support the efforts of raising awareness and voluntarily collect data on dolphin sightings and the threats it faces.
This initiative will contribute towards protecting the Indus River dolphin and overall biodiversity of the region.
This initiative is part of the WWF-Pakistan’s project funded by the Darwin Initiative, a UK government grants scheme. The primary focus of the programme is technological innovation as a potential solution to the critical threat of dolphin bycatch in fishing nets. The project also aims to engage local fishers in monitoring and experimenting with dolphin bycatch mitigation solutions.
Speaking on the occasion Dr. Masood Arshad, Senior Director, WWF-Pakistan said, “Our ongoing efforts on the conservation of Indus River offer a unique combination of policy advocacy, scientific research and enhanced community stewardship.” He added that communities are at the heart of biodiversity conservation and many of this unique biodiversity is mostly found in the area where communities rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. These communities carry unique traditional knowledge and practices that play a vital role in protection and wise-use of biodiversity resources.
Mr. Adnan Hamid Khan, Deputy Conservator, Sindh Wildlife Department shared that the Indus River Dolphin is a flagship species, which is endangered. He highlighted the decades long efforts of Sindh Wildlife Department which led towards doubling the population of this species. He also shared that new wildlife protection law of the Sindh Wildlife Department now offers strong protection coverage of the Indus River Dolphin and other wildlife of Sindh including stringent penalties act as deterrent to control wildlife crime. He also added that degrading the dolphin habitat and threats such as illegal fishing is also a punishable act under the law. He acknowledged the positive outcomes of the coordinated efforts of Sindh Wildlife Department and WWF-Pakistan that has been supporting the conservation of this endangered species.
Speaking on the occasion Muhammad Shaheen Khan, Deputy Director DG Khan Region, Punjab Fisheries Department emphasized that fishers should join hands to support efforts of controlling illegal means of fishing such as use of poison and generators. These practices, he added, not only kill our unique dolphins but also destroy the entire ecosystem which is a source of livelihood to the fisher community and many more who rely on the Indus River.
The event was also graced with interactive stage show performances by local artists and the community, highlighting ecological significance of Bhulan and the role of fishers.