Fish consumption in Pakistan is one of the lowest in the world i.e.1-2 kg per capita per year bringing down nutrition levels among people to one of the lowest also.This is not a habit issue,which at best is a chicken-egg problem.This is despite , a 1000 km+ coastline and four rivers and thousands of miles of canal network.There is a tremendous potential in the sector to contribute to the livelihood of the poor , if not for boosting exports which any case robs the poor of its potential food that may be available otherwise.
Most of the coastal fishery is under open access system which is normally exploitative maximising output and profits without any regards for resource conservation,sustainability and stewardship,although there are some regulations that provide for the former with a varying level of effectiveness.If a resource is owned by a community ,it may forego consumption or injurious exploitation ,for the sake of tomorrows consumption and needs.In open access system ,it is generally free for all and no such incentives for resource conservation and stewardship or management exist ,except for some labelling systems that are in a stage of infancy.
Similar is the situation for inland fisheries resources and water bodies which are contracted out by WAPDA and provincial governments as per their domain and ownership.Except for some limited revenue,the characteristics of contractorship are the same as in the open access system.Even the puprete and potential revenues are siphone off by the corrupt bureaucracy and their politically influencial patrons.
Community base fisheries management has emerged as a viable alternative management system, although promoted more for environmental reasons than any thing else.Our focus here is to utilise this approach towards the following social and economic objectives:
1) to broaden the claim and stewardship of the poor and the landless on the resurces.
2)to dilute feudal structures and reduce dependence of the people on it.
3)to increase nutrition and income of the rural poor.
4)To increase output,efficiency,economics and resource conservation.
5)and for the time being ,contribute to the revival of rural economies after the flood disaster,with which we have dealt with in a sperate article.
However,there is a great risk in all community based systems to be hijacked by feudal vested interest through proxy and background manipulations and machinations.The very purpose of broader social and economic upliftment is gone.Commercial and administrative systems have been and are an improvement of the classical and traditional master-client system of landed interests which try to reemerge under new names of community organisations.Policy designers have to be watchful.
The opportunities of improvement are many.Small steps with continuous improvement and innovations at a broad scale in most parts of the economy can add up to bring about a major impact on the economy and well-breing of the people.The tragedy is that people seem to be losing hope and confidence that things would work out.They wait and dream and hope for a great tumultuous type of change delivered by a Messiah whose time is either gone or has yet to come.Some phony messiahs are touting themselves as the real ones. are waiting for an Islamic system , and their other brothers want to fast track the same through their suicide attacks.Some nihilists are looking forward to total destruction, so that a new order emerges from its debris.There used to be communists of the yesteryears,whose dreams were overrun by the collapse of the Soviet system.Still possibly ,the only real communists are found in Pakistan and India.Fast growth phenomenon of fascism was defeated at the alter of misconduct of Adolf Hitler,and the new proponents of it in the form of military dictators of ours have not been able to offer a panacea,except to offer themselves again and again.So there is no panacea ,magic or secret recipe for social and economic development.It comes about piecemeal,in small steps but through a continuous and sustained effort.
In Pakistan,we have been talking about various initiatives for a long time .No sizable initiative after Poultry Scheme has not been implemented.All that is done is that some demonstration projects are launched under foreign aid and through foreign consultants,without conviction or commitment.There is no follow-up and no policy and action for launching such schemes and initiatives.There is abundance of doubting thomases and skeptics for whom nothing is possible or feasible,except the continuation of their perks and benefits.On the other hands so many challenges and demands on newly elected political leaders are created that they are paralyzed in fire-fighting and so much impatience is shown as to create despondency,while military rule is tolerated for long times.People of Pakistan must understand these machinations and put their weight behind democratic political order.On the other hand,political parties should induct technicians and experts,who should remain busy in their development work without bothering about the daily political ups and downs.It is only then that a legitimate and sustainable development and improvement cycle would come into full gear.