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Hilal English

The Captivating Creeks

October 2022

With the growing importance of oceans for world trade, the importance of Blue Economy has also grown significantly. The creeks area bordering India and Pakistan in the South has immense potential for Pakistan. Besides the ecological and economic significance, it is also the plane crash site of Rashid Minhas (NH) Shaheed.



It’s been 75 years to Pakistan’s independence, yet there are many areas of our motherland which still remain unexplored. One of them lies in the south east of Pakistan as creeks area. During my visit to the area, I found some very interesting facts which I feel essential to be shared for the general information of the readers.
Pakistan’s over 1000 kilometers beautiful coastline is diverse with two distinct coasts: Sindh coast in the east and Makran coast on the west of Karachi. While most of the discussion about the coastline remains restricted to our Makran coast, ostensibly because of Gwadar, our Sindh coast totally remains unnoticed. Its beauty, charisma and significance are yet unknown and unsaid. 
Geography
The Sindh coast in the east of Karachi is about 300 kilometers long and makes a curve towards the southeast where it becomes a partition between Pakistan and India. It completely comprises creeks and is also sometimes referred as the Creeks Area. It falls under the jurisdiction of three districts: Thatta, Sujawal and Badin. The important towns are Gharo, Keti Bandar, Shah Bandar and Jati. 


Pakistan has about 70 percent of Creeks Area while the rest lies in India. The area that joins both countries is almost mangroves-less because of being distant from the river-sea rendezvous. 


The creeks are by themselves a unique terrain, having interesting and beautiful features. It is in this area that the mighty Indus greets the sea at a point called Ghorra Bari. The amalgamation of the two has cast a very unique effect on the area in the form of wastelands, marshes, swamps and mangroves – another ecstatic feature of exclusivity. It is the 5th largest mangroves jungle that we are blessed to have in Pakistan. For mangroves to grow, a specific mix of brackish and sea water is required which is found in abundance astride Ghorra Bari area, but as we move away easterly or westerly, the mangroves get thinner and ultimately vanish because of the lack of such hydro-blending. Pakistan has about 70 percent of Creeks Area while the rest lies in India. The area that joins both countries is almost mangroves-less because of being distant from the river-sea rendezvous. 
History tells us that River Indus had a number of small rivers and rivulets branching off from the main river emptying the water directly into the sea. Two southern most tributaries in the southeast that would fall into sea are of significance, which were Seer (now called Sir and is in Pakistan) and south of it was Koree (now called Kori and is in India). The area between both was rich for growing rice crop. Two catastrophic earthquakes changed the course of Indus and the area permanently. On June 16, 1819, a massive earthquake of 7.7 to 8.2 magnitude generated Tsunami and caused 1543 deaths. It formed a 8 kilometers long, 6 kilometers wide and 6 meters high bund in the east-west direction to the north of Koree. It is called Allah Band which now lies in Pakistan. It stopped the river flow to Koree, which ultimately dried up but the depression caused by the earthquake was soon filled by seawater. It did not affect river water flow to Seer. On June 19, 1845, another massive earthquake triggered Tsunami which completely destroyed the area between Seer and Koree and converted it into a vast low-lying wasteland with numerous creeks where fishermen now catch fish. Seer now Sir, therefore became the natural border between Sind (now in Pakistan as Sindh) and Cutch (now in India as Kutch). 
The area has creeks of various dimensions which are all interconnected. The major creeks have a width of up to 6 km while the rest are usually 1 to 2 km wide. There are islands all across which are surrounded by the creeks. Amongst the major famous creeks are Sir, Kajhar, Kharak, Khobar, Tursian, Hajamro, Patiani and Phitti. Sir Creek is disputed between Pakistan and India. 
The creeks have tidal effects and change the area orientation at least four times a day. When the water rises due to high tide, the islands get slimmer, while these get conspicuous during low tide. The art of creeks navigation is typical and essential to roam around in the area. 
Demography 
The population living along the creeks area is hardworking, docile, friendly and cooperative. Over 96 percent are Muslims and 3 percent are Hindus. They are mostly fishermen and are naturally adroit in exploiting the marine potential found in the creeks. In some areas, fishermen use flat bottom boats to cross swamps. These boats are specific to this area and are seldom found anywhere else. Women of the area share the burden of the household and besides fetching water from distant areas, they also work in farms. Their living is modest and mud houses are widespread because of their economical construction and upkeep. These houses are built of wooden structure with mud plastering, both of which are found in abundance in the area. Although schools have been established by the government, yet lack of interest is found for education among the populace. There is dearth of adequate health facilities. 
A strong culture of sufism is the hallmark of the area which can be observed in the form of abundant mausoleums, tombs or shrines. These are also present on some islands well inside creeks area and are visited regularly by the local populace regardless of faith. The yearly festival, Urs is a prominent feature; a source of entertainment for the locals, especially for women and children. Bazaars, eateries and play areas are organised during these Urs and people flock to pay respect to the saints as well as to fulfil their craving for entertainment. The area is peaceful with very low to negligible crime rate. 
Significance
The significance of creeks area is manifold. The lingering dispute of Sir Creek, the area’s ecological importance, economic potential and the historical value it bears are some of the prominent aspects that mark its importance. The Sir Creek dispute started in 1908 on an argument between rulers of Sind and Cutch on a pile of woods lying on the bank of Sir Creek dividing the two principalities. The issue was referred to the government of Bombay and was resolved in 1914, deciding a boundary on the eastern bank of the creek. In 1969, when Pakistan and India embarked upon the demarcation of land boundary, a totally new interpretation was made by India, initially stating that the boundary ran along the western bank of Sir Creek and then in the middle of the creek. Pakistan maintains that the boundary runs along the eastern bank as decided by the government of Bombay. Pending resolution of the issue, the maritime boundary between Pakistan and India has not been demarcated so far. 
Creeks area holds immense ecological value and provides natural habitat for some of the unique breeds of animals and fish. Besides green pastures which are found just on the mouth of Indus, mangroves are the main source of environmental preservation in the area. Some of the salient characteristics of mangroves include absorption of carbon dioxide 4 to 5 times more than a normal plant, reducing marine pollution by absorbing toxic nitrates, serving as a nursery for over 3000 marine species and protecting the land against erosion. A unique breed of camels is found in our creeks area which survives on saline vegetation. They are called Kharai camels who swim across the creeks and sustain themselves on islands surrounded by the creeks. After every few days, their master brings drinking water in howra (local wooden boat) and all the camels gather at one place to fill themselves. Mud fish is also one speciality of creeks which survives both on land and in water. It is commonly used by the fishermen as a bait. World’s purest honey is found in mangroves for the simple fact that it does not contain syrup of any other plant as none grows in the area where mangroves grow. So is found in our mangroves jungle. Besides, a variety of migratory birds visit our creeks area every winter season. 


Amongst the major famous creeks are Sir, Kajhar, Kharak, Khobar, Tursian, Hajamro, Patiani and Phitti. Sir Creek is disputed between Pakistan and India.


The economic potential of our creeks is also immense, but perhaps has not been identified exactly to date. Fishing is the main source of earning for the locals who send it to Karachi for trade and selling. Lack of appropriate processing facilities, modest road infrastructure, and distance to Karachi are some of the problems that fishermen usually face. The creeks area has great potential for ecotourism since it is naturally attuned. The creeks are like pathways which traverse all around the area via mangroves jungles and give a look of some fairy tale landscape. Their beauty and uniqueness in different times of day and night cannot be described in words. Our creeks are also rich in hydrocarbons. Government organisations have extracted gas from creeks and are looking for more hydrocarbons in the area. 
Another important facet of creeks area is the crash site of Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider) at Goth Khuda Baksh that lies 12 kilometers north of Shah Bandar. Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (NH), is the youngest shaheed and the only one from Pakistan Air Force. On August 20, 1971 he denied the sabotage effort of his instructor and preferred to crash his plane instead of landing into the hands of the enemy. The people of Goth Khuda Baksh still narrate the story of crash as eyewitnesses. They fondly guide the visitors to the sites where the plane was crashed and the bodies were found. Pakistan Navy, after having identified the site, has placed road signs and a plaque. Pakistan Air Force meanwhile is in the process of constructing a monument as well as some social welfare projects for the people who have been preserving this site for the last 51 years. 
Pakistan’s coastline is blessed with a variety of places each unique in its description and layout. Unfortunately, there is no easy access to such areas and people thus stay oblivious of the great potential that lies therein. Hence, it remains untapped and has very minute or no contribution to the national economy while the local populace is deprived of adequate basic commodities which they deserve. These areas are a must-visit in order to publicise their potential which could be utilized for the benefit of the country.