The government needs to wake up from its slumber and impose a ban on turtle trad

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

By Haroon Khalid

On the morning of March 25, downstream Sukkur Barrage, thousands of turtles, both soft and hard shell, were found dead on both sides of the Indus Bank. All the soft shell turtles, that were bigger in size, were found without their carapace. The hard shell turtles were left untouched.

In the last seven to eight years, the demand for carapace has increased rapidly. Because carapace, a jelly-like structure or shell made of bone or chitin that covers a part of the body, especially the back of a crab or a turtle, is a valued ingredient in many Asian foods and also used in the medicine industry.

From the tests conducted on water, dead turtles and adjacent areas, it is apparent that potassium cyanide, a toxic chemical that does not differentiate between a turtle and a fish, is being used to kill marine life. This toxic chemical impacts the larger ecosystem in a deadly way. It poisons the carapace and  water as well.
Use of such material is relatively easier during the current season of low rain. During low water periods several ponds are formed in the down stream area. This stagnation of water makes everything in there an easy prey for the poison. In the recent years, so much money has been inducted into this business that some fishermen have taken up this practice, too. Turtles are the best scavengers under water. If they did not create a clean environment most species would not be able to survive in polluted conditions. The case would be similar to the 'extinction' of vultures and the rise of diseases like rabies. According to Dr Masood Arshad, a fisherman is aware that turtles are the best conservationists, "He knows if he kills the soft back turtles there wouldn't be anything left for his children in the future." However, he says, "a few of them, who don't share the same vision, believe in grasping everything today. They help the traders by maximising their catch." This relationship that exists between the fisherman and the trader is limited to a mobile phone. It is reported that their names and whereabouts are not known. All they need to do is make a call and agree upon a date of delivery. On the day of delivery, they show up on their truck, to take their hunt.

Allegedly, there are at least three government departments involved in this horrific incident, Fishery, Wildlife, and Environment Ministries. The first two are involved in a blame game. The Fishery Department says that since there were no fish at the spot, therefore this doesn't lie in their scope of work. The Wildlife, on the other hand, says that since this was an act originating from the fishermen community, it falls under the umbrella of the former. The Environment Department has no other option but to take its responsibility.

For a long time, the Fishery Department has given out contracts to a single contractor for various stretches of the river. The contractors further sublet their tenures. However, under the present government, the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum (PFFF) insisted that the contractor system should be scrapped and instead cards should be allotted to fishermen by the Department, so that the poor fisherman could reap the maximum results of his catch. The government issued the Benazir Fishing Card, which can be purchased for Rs10. Now, anyone, with the right contacts can get hold of this card, and extract fish from the river. In the former system, if such an event took place, there would be at least one contractor you could fall back on. However, we are clueless about where to begin from, and where to end. The PFFF seems to have realised its short-sightedness and now wants to revoke this setup, going back to the initial one.

At the moment, the government institutes are being persistently shaken by the World Wide Fund (WWF) to wake up from its slumber and put a ban on turtle trade and implement other preventive policies. If such a ban is put in place, hopefully such catastrophes will be avoided in the future.

Birds of Sindh, Pakistan (The great bird chase)

About two decades ago, Nara Canal in Sindh was reputed to have ample complement of birds and wildlife. But not anymore
By Salman Rashid

Back in the early 1980s when I lived in Karachi, I spent my weekends wandering about the wild places of Sindh. While old ruins were a favorite haunt, my other preference was the hundreds of small lakes and canals of Thatta and Badin districts. There were birds, birds and birds that I had never seen before. If truth be told, that was when I learned that the pariah kite is not the only hawk-like bird!

Referring only to wildlife, my 10 years in Sindh until December 1988 took me to the Khirthar Mountains on one side and to the lakes of lower Sindh on the other. Those wonderful years form a kaleidoscope of heart-warming images: 500 flamingos in a lake barely off a road somewhere in Badin, a golden eagle on the prowl above the Khirthar crags, a male Pallas's fish eagle bringing food to its mate on eggs, a desert cat near Naukot Fort and leopard pug marks in the lower Khirthar Mountains. There are also memories of virtually hordes of marsh harriers, Brahminy kites, jacarandas, and migratory ducks of a dozen different species almost within arm's length.

Now for many years I had not been in Sindh at the right time, that is, mid-winter. So, when my friend Raheal Siddiqui arranged for me to be driven down from Sukkur along the Nara Canal, I asked my guru Nadeem Khawar, the photographer, to bring along his wildlife photography equipment. The Nara Canal that takes off from the barrage at Sukkur, follows an ancient abandoned bed of the Sindhu River and is reputed to have, besides its ample complement of birds and wildlife, a goodly population of crocodiles.

Meeting up in Sukkur, we set out early one morning. Unfortunately, the driver, a Magsi from Jacobabad, did not know this part of the country very well. So when I said to him that we wished to drive along Nara Canal, he heard Nara Cantt. As I had not known that in the 22 years since I was last there, a Nara Cantonment had come up near the village of Tajjal, so too did the good Magsi had no idea about the canal.

Expecting to be joining the canal soon, Nadeem and I got talking. And we had a lot of talking to do. Nadeem hopes to trek up to Sim Gang (Snow Lake) in the summer and said I ought to come with him. Following the fiasco in Mintaka Pass and having written my requiem in this paper last summer, I now wanted to back out of retirement. Making plans and yakking away, we did not realise that we were taking an awfully long time reaching the canal. At that point we were somewhere in a desert of low limestone hills.

Still, instead of worrying about being lost, I launched on the tale of those Neolithic chert blades that my wife Shabnam and I had found in this region in 1987. At that time, some cement factory or the other had hired local labor to sweep up the loose surface talus of the hills. This was gathered in large piles and collected by trucks to be crushed for cement making. It was from among these piles that we picked up the blades.

Here was the cultural heritage of Sindh reaching back a hundred thousand years and more in the past, and the cement manufacturers were destroying it for a few rupees of profit. That was a time when a man known for his interest in the preservation of Sindhi culture, arts and crafts was the Secretary Culture and Tourism. We went back to Karachi frantic with concern and told the good man what was going on. If I remember correctly, I even wrote out my complaint for him.

I have long maintained that we Pakistanis are exhibitionists interested in doing only what can be noticed. The chert blades that our Neanderthal ancestors were so assiduously producing on the banks of the Sindhu, did not interest anyone in the dark years of a dictator. Nor too were stone blades as visible as the finds of, say, a dinosaur or a huge gold necklace. Consequently, nothing happened. And today we stand having lost a major part of Sindhi prehistory. The greater tragedy is that nobody noticed; no tears were shed.

I broke off from my diatribe to ask the driver where we were. He said we would shortly be there. I assumed 'there' meant the Nara Canal. Another hour went by. It was now mid-morning with the sun high and the light no longer good for bird photography. About this time, I noticed a conical hill with its crest shaped like a large billed and crested bird. It actually looked like a huge prehistoric bird sitting in its nest.

We stopped and I took a picture of the hill. Even as I did that, I had niggling hunch that this stone bird did not bode well for our little expedition.

When I asked him again, the driver said we would shortly be there. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later we drove past a milestone that said, 'Nara Cantt 0 km.' Old Magsi asked who we wanted to see in the cantonment and I nearly went through the roof. We had lost nearly three hours. It now turned out that whenever I said 'Nara Canal,' Magsi heard 'Nara Cantt' and when he mentioned the cantonment, I only heard 'canal.' We were too late and too far out to drive back and restart along the canal from Sukkur. And so we settled for picking up the Nara Canal at Nara Cantt.

Down its meandering course we went, pausing whenever we came abreast with sandbanks in the water. Here we hoped to find crocodiles. At least that is what I imagined. But we found nothing; not even the birds that filled my imagination from more than 20 years ago.

As we meandered through the countryside, we spotted a lake and paused to see if we could make some worthwhile images. Two amiable young men taking time off in a teashop offered to lead us and by and by, we were by its shore. We only found some red-wattled lapwings, stilts and a species of snipe. There were no harriers or Brahminy kites. Indeed, in the full day's travel, we had not seen many birds. This was a strange contrast from the Sindh of my younger days.

On the morrow, somewhat disappointed, we left the canal and headed straight for Badin. My friend Abubakar Sheikh whose NGO is hard at work attempting to rehabilitate Nariri lagoon on the seaboard of the district was our guide. Until May 1999, the emerald Nariri was a wonderland of shorebirds. On the sixth day of the month, cyclone A-2 slammed into it. For a full 36 hours, the storm raged and when the waters receded, the shallows of the lagoon were filled with sand brought in by the huge waves. There was no longer room for water in the lagoon.

Since Nariri was once known to be a flamingo habitat, we headed south of Badin hoping to find the birds. The person who had lent us his vehicle, opted to come along for the fun. But one man's fun is the other man's poison. Soon after we left the tarmac, we hit a ditch in the road. Though we got across with a bit of a hassle, our host seemed peeved. Abu, Nadeem, and I could clearly see that he thought we were bonkers. But the lure of photographing flamingos drove us on.

At the embankment, which Abu's NGO hopes to raise in order to fill the lagoon once again, we met with some villagers. The word we received was grim: a hunting party had preceded us by a day. Only in this region they had expended upward of 200 cartridges, it was reported. The flamingos and pelicans were there all right until the day before. But the noise drove them out. Now they were about a kilometer from land in the sea and we had to be supermen with telescopic vision to see them at that distance. Going out on a boat was out of the question because the birds were so spooked that they kept their distance.

Dejected we turned our backs on Nariri lagoon. Abu said if we wanted to see the flamingos, we would have to return next winter, camp in the lagoon for a few days and do our photography. And so with this hope, we turned around. There was one highpoint of this day however: Nadeem bagged a few prize shots of sparrow hawks and Brahminy kites with his 600 mm lens. In comparison to the images that crowd my mind from a quarter century ago, this was hardly anything. But this will keep us expectant until next winter.

Caroline Cartwright To Face Jail Time For Loud Sex

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A British woman who made her neighbors' lives hell with noisy sex sessions with her husband has avoided jail again.

Caroline Cartwright, 49, was in court again for breaching an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) banning her from "shouting, screaming or vocalization" during romps with her husband Steve. Their love-making has been described as "murder" and "unnatural" and drowned out their neighbours' televisions.

Cartwright claims she is unable to stop the loud shouting and screaming during sex and says the Asbo is a breach of her human rights. "I did not understand why people asked me to be quiet because to me it is normal. I didn't understand where they were coming from," she explained at a previous court appearance.

"I have tried to minimise the situation by having sex in the morning - not at night - so the noise was not waking anybody. "I may be sympathetic to it, but it is not something I am doing on purpose."

On Tuesday at Newcastle Crown Court Cartwright admitted two charges of breaching the Asbo at her home in Hall Road. The court heard that her neighbour Rachel O'Connor called the police after hearing Cartwright shouting and screaming for 10 minutes during love-making on the morning of March 14 this year.

The next day O'Connor's partner Vince Wilson also called police after the defendant could be heard singing at the top of her voice to dance music blasting out from her terraced house. Police officers, who attended the neighbours' flat, heard 20 minutes of loud music and singing before arresting Cartwright, the court heard.

The saga of Cartwright's love-making has been a long-running drama, which has seen her jailed and forced to live in a bail hostel away from her husband. Two years ago after neighbours, the local postman and a woman taking her child to school complained about the noise, she was hit with a noise abatement notice.

On Tuesday prosecutor Penny Moreland explained that when Cartwright breached the notice five times she was made subject of an anti-social behaviour order in April last year. In January this year she received an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after admitting three charges of breaching the Asbo, Moreland said.

Christopher Rose, defending, said Cartwright had caused herself great hardship because of her behaviour. Recorder Jeremy Freedman told Cartwright that only her guilty pleas on Tuesday had saved her from the eight-week suspended prison term that was hanging over her.

He imposed a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and a one-year supervision order."

Facts of Attabad Lake, Hunza (Time Line)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five months ago, on January 4th, 2010 in the remote Hunza River Valley of northern Pakistan, a massive landslide buried the village of Attabad, destroying 26 homes, killing 20 people, and damming up the Hunza River. As the newly-formed lake grew, authorities rushed to evacuate and supply those affected in the landslide area and upstream. The lake is now over 300 feet deep and 16km (10 mi) long, submerging miles of highway, farms and homes. Earlier this week, the lake reached the top of the natural dam, and began to spill out - rapid erosion of the landslide debris has authorities worried about a potential breach, and locals have been evacuated as officials monitor the developing situation. Special thanks to the Pamir Times for sharing their photos and coverage of this event.

This photograph was taken while a secondary landslide was taking place near Attabad village in northern Pakistan on January 22, 2010, after the original massive landslide of January 4th blocked most of the Hunza Valley and dammed the Hunza River.

Huge clouds of dust arise as land slides continued on January 6, 2010, the second day of the Attabad disaster.

Residents from surrounding area visit the scene of the massive landslide in the Hunza River Valley in northern Pakistan on January 5, 2010.

A view of the newly-forming lake formed due to blockage of the Hunza River, seen three days after the landslide, on January 7, 2010.

Land cracks visible in the land near what remains of the village of Attabad on February 1, 2010. FOCUS geologists warned that the cracked portions might fall at any time.

Another view of the growing lake formed behind the landslide, seen from the ruins of Attabad village on February 1, 2010.

Local volunteers conducting search for bodies in rubble near the village of Attabad on January 6, 2010.

A funeral service is held for some of the victims of the Hunza Valley landslide on January 6, 2010.

Men climb across landslide debris in the Hunza River Valley on January 7, 2010. The growing lake is visible in the background.

With the only highway wiped out by the landslide, Gojal Valley locals turn to airlifts to help them evacuate and get access to goods and services. Photo taken on January 7, 2010

Heavy machinery is employed to lift and carry a wooden boat up the side of the landslide debris to be deposited in the lake to aid evacuation and supply missions on April 6, 2010.

In this image taken on April 30, 2010, local people use a boat to ferry their vehicles in a lake caused by landslide which cuts off part of the Karakoram highway to China, in the Hunza district of northern Pakistan.

In this image taken on Thursday March 11, 2010, Pakistani loaders carrying goods imported from neighboring China which are ferried through a lake due to blockade of the Karakoram Highway, in Attabad, northern Pakistan. A massive landslide early this year formed a natural dam in the Hunza River created a lake that is consuming upstream as it expands. If dam breaks, a flash flood could threaten downstream villages.

An aerial view, taken from military helicopter, of a natural dam caused by a landslide in Attabad village, Hunza district, northern Pakistan, May 21, 2010. Thousands have been evacuated from their homes this week in north Pakistan amid fears a lake, formed after a landslide blocked the Hunza River on January 4, could soon burst, triggering massive flooding and severing an important trade link with China.

An aerial view, taken from military helicopter, of a natural dam caused by a landslide in Attabad village, Hunza district, northern Pakistan, May 21, 2010.

An aerial view shows a lake overtaking a village in the Hunza district of northern Pakistan on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

Villagers, who lived near a lake created after a landslide in Hunza district, collect belongings from their home at Sheeshghat village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan May 24, 2010.

Women, who lived near a lake created after a landslide in Hunza district, cut barley in a field in Seeshghat village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan May 24, 2010.

As water rises, locals use a makeshift pedestrian bridge to help them supply and evacuate in the Hunza River Valley in northern Pakistan. The pillars are from an under-construction "friendship bridge" for the now-partly-submerged Karakoram Highway. Photo taken on March 17th, 2010

This image, acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite on March 16th, 2010 shows the blocked Hunza River and the growing lake, then 11 km (7 mi) long, inundating several villages and 5 km (3 mi) of the Karakoram Highway. Landslide blockage is at lower right.

 Pillars of the under-construction "friendship bridge" for the Karakoram Highway, now flooded - seen on May 2nd, 2010, only two weeks after the same scene was photographed from a different angle

 While the boats brought to the new lake have been a great help for the stranded people, concerns for safety of the passengers remains a major issue. Photo taken on May 2nd, 2010.

 Pakistani soldiers help villagers as they board an army helicopter in the village of Altitin in the Hunza district of northern Pakistan on May 21, 2010. Flooding from a lake in northern Pakistan risks affecting 40,000 residents of some 34 villages already evacuated to safety, a top disaster management official said.

Children walk near tents set up for displaced people who were affected by a natural dam caused by a landslide in Attabad village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan May 19, 2010.

A girl cries while sitting with others to protest against the government's failure to announce compensation for those displaced by a lake created after a landslide during a demonstration in Attaabad village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan on May 22, 2010.

Residents of the Gojal (Upper Hunza) Valley ride across the lake flooding their villages and rising daily.

A view from a military helicopter of the lake growing behind a natural dam caused by a landslide which passes through Sheeshgat village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan May 24, 2010.

On February 28th, The second largest bridge on Karakuram Highway submerged in the lake water between Shishkat and Gulmit, two of the largest settlements of Gojal valley. The bridge had already been closed for all sorts of traffic due to the dangers posed by wind and water. Photo taken on February 22, 2010.

Workers use machines to dig a spillway to release water pressure built up by the natural dam caused by a landslide in Attabad village in Hunza district of northern Pakistan May 12, 2010. Fears are growing a lake created by a landslide will burst and cause a massive flood that could affect more than 50,000 people in northern Pakistan and disrupt a key trade link with China, residents said on Wednesday.

In this mage taken on Thursday March 11, 2010, bulldozers leveling a ground to make spill for water accumulated in a lake due to blockade the Hunza River in Attabad, northern Pakistan. A massive landslide early this year formed a natural dam in the Hunza river created a lake that is consuming upstream as it expands. If dam breaks, a flash flood could threaten downstream villages.

The people of Gojal carrying daily essentials on their backs across the landslide site on January 12, 2010

People climb the 700 ft high landslide debris to be able to reach the boats while moving towards Gojal Valley on March 28, 2010.

Some trees will bloom only for a while this year in the Gojal Valley villages of Ayeenabad and Shishkat in northern Pakistan. Photo taken on March 28, 2010.

A scene looking down on flooded orchards and homes in the village of Ayeenabad, Pakistan on May 8th, 2010. The hard work of at least three generations have been destroyed by the lake.

A gate near an orchard lies submerged in the upper Hunza Valley on April 14th, 2010. Around 40 houses in Ayeenabad and Shishkat Payeen have been dismantled to save valuables from sinking in the lake water.

A partially submerged pedestrian bridge in the Upper Hunza Valley, seen on May 7th, 2010.

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on the Terra satellite acquired this false-color image of the landslide lake on June 1, 2010 - now 16km (10 mi) long. Taken 10 weeks earlier, and see that the lake has grown by 5km in length. Water appears in varying shades of blue. Vegetation is red. Bare rock appears in shades of brown and gray.

After the lake began to flow through the spillway that was cut into the landslide debris on May 29th, the flow of the water has increased, but still does not match the inflow upstream from the Hunza River. And - as is evidenced by these two images (May 30th on the left, June 4th on the right), the outflow is eroding the debris, working back toward the lake - potentially signaling an upcoming breach where nearly five months worth of river flow might wash away the dam and cause serious flooding downstream. Scientists and authorities are monitoring the situation and evacuations have been undertaken for all threatened areas.

Special Thanks
Mr. Jameel Akhtar


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Among the marvels of modern technology is also the ability to track the missed calls which were made by our friends and foes and the likes. We do not get a good night's sleep, unless we have returned the calls of those who matter. We don't let any call / miss call go unanswered as long as we know that it matters. Don't we?

But how about the calls of "hay-yaa al-as-salaah and hay-yaa al-al falah" made from the neighborhood house of our master, the Almighty Allah.? Those calls are made five times a day and many a times they all go unanswered. We do not either respond!!! Nor do we respect these Mssed Calls. Do they matter?

Everybody can tell, if these really matter. May be not today nor tomorrow, but surely in the hereafter. Let us look at ourselves. Can we afford to let these calls of the Muezzin be missed, day after day, after day. The call from our Cherisher, Sustainer and the Ultimate Master. Just think about it?
Next time one hears this call, just ask yourself how good a night's sleep can I have by missing those calls from the house of Allah Think about it....the answer may come from the inner heart.
Prophet Muhammad ( S.A.W) says: "The one who guides to good will be rewarded equally".
"the purification of the heart is in the purification of actions...the purification of actions is in the purification of al niyyah (intention)"

Cave Houses in Afghanistan

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cave Houses