MANCHAR LAKE: For generations the Mohanna tribe have lived, loved, worked, and played on Pakistan’s Manchar Lake; their floating settlement serving their needs from birth to death.
But an unrelenting flow of toxic wastewater is pouring into the lake — a byproduct of industrialisation and aggressive agricultural practices upstream — and has slowly rendered it inhospitable, poisoning the water and almost everything in it.
For fishermen such as Mohammed Yusuf, life on the lake is becoming intolerable.
“When we were young, our lives were very good. Every kind of fish was available. Our earnings were good,” he told AFP.
“When my father would go fishing he would bring back over a hundred kilos of fish. Now the situation has changed. The fish is extinct because of the bad water,” he added.
The wooden, flat-bottomed barge he lives in with his mother, wife, and their nine children, has ornate carvings but it has seen better days.
Now Yusuf barely catches enough fish to feed his family, let alone be able to save the money he needs to maintain his boat.
He estimates they have just five years before it is beyond repair, fearing he will soon have to leave the place where he was born.
And yet their whole life is packed into this floating home: Clothes and linen are stacked in the stern, kitchenware and food under the prow. Cooking is done down in the hold, on a little earthen hearth fed by the stems of aquatic plants.
“If it is hot we sleep on the roof, in the winter we sleep inside the boat on the floor,” said Yusuf.
Two cradles swing as the breeze softens the heat: the larger for his child born on board some 40 days ago, the smaller one for the Koran, a dignified place for the Holy Book to avoid desecration.
Neighbouring boathouses are anchored a few dozen metres away. Children wade or swim in the shallows while adults navigate the water in narrow wooden canoes, which they skillfully push with a pole.
“We have been living this way for generations,” explained the fisherman.