The Indian Ocean World Podcast

The Indus Delta Between Past and Future

January 11, 2022

The IOWC Podcast team had the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Hasan H. Karrar, an Associate Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (“LUMS,” Lahore, Pakistan) who specializes in modern Chinese and Central Asian history and political economy. In this podcast, Dr. Karrar delves into his recent working paper entitled “The Indus Delta Between Past and Future: Precarious Livelihoods and Neoliberal Imaginaries in a Parched Coastal Belt,” which was published in the 5th volume of the Journal of Indian Ocean World Studies (JIOWS). Predominantly located in Pakistan, the Indus delta, at the terminus of the Indus River system, is presently home to 300,000 residents. Over the last century, upriver hydrology has reduced the flow of water through the river. The result of continuous hydrological manipulation is salination and seawater incursion that has led to the loss of arable land – reducing agriculture as a sustainable livelihood. This has created precarious livelihoods whereby people are forced either into the informal fishing sector, or to migrate, representing a stark departure from earlier times when agriculture was the primary vocation.  

Dr. Karrar asks what the future holds for the delta region of Pakistan? What solutions might be proposed to these climate-related roadblocks? One solution is utilizing Chinese investment in Pakistan to reduce the environmental impact on the region. This approach moreover presents a future Pakistan that is connected to markets in Asia through its ports, an economic design that has been propagated in Pakistan for decades. However, as is argued by Dr. Karrar, the fixation on the fantastical futures of the Pakistani state, while encouraging investment and economic longevity, does not assist in remedying the problems of a delta-based population stuck in an uncertain present.

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