Dutch ambassador inaugurates walkway at Keenjhar

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Dutch ambassador Gajus Scheltema visited Keenjhar Lake in Thatta district on Monday to inaugurate a walkway, which is expected to promote ecotourism in the area. The walkway offers view to mesmerising scenic beauty of the lake and easy access to the Conservation and Information Centre at Keenjhar. The Keenjhar Conservation and Information Centre and the walkway have been set up by “Indus for All Programme” funded by WWF Pakistan with the support of the Dutch embassy. The centre facilitates sustainable management of the precious biodiversity through providing a platform for stakeholder to dialogue and opportunities for ecotourism, supporting scientific research and creating awareness.
The centre, which has a conference room facility with seating capacity of up to 40 people, a display room, a watch tower and boat facility, also offers latest information about the lake, including threats posed to it by environmental degradation. The Indus for All Programme operations are under way in three districts of Indus eco-region – Thatta, Sanghar and Nawabshah – to address ecological sustainability through livelihoods improvement. While touring nearby villages, the ambassador appreciated the team efforts of the Indus for All Programme staff in providing alternate livelihoods sources to local communities with a view to minimising the impact on the natural environment.
Scheltema also observed the devastating impact of the flood and expressed the need to continue the programme for an extended period through partnerships. Later, he met with community-based organisations and local community members, who have been provided with fishing boats and floating matkas (pitcher used for fishing), and computer education through computer centre. While visiting a patch of mangrove forest, being conserved close to Keenjhar Lake, he appreciated the reed and weed management efforts of the WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the local communities. He also urged rural women to participate actively in community development and related to the example of his own country Netherlands, saying though his country is smaller than Pakistan in terms of population, but it is progressing rapidly in all spheres of life because of empowerment of women.
The ambassador was accompanied by Jan Willem Cools, first secretary of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands whereas WWF was represented by Rab Nawaz, Nasir Ali Panhwar, Umeed Khalid, Ali Dehlavi, Hafeezullah and Shahzadi Tunio.
Earlier, he visited Haleji Lake, once known as paradise of birds, where Sindh Wildlife Department Conservator Saeed Baloch briefed him about the significance of the wetland.