Salt lakes near the Indus delta in Sindh, Pakistan.


The Indus River basin is the most important yet heavily degraded river system in Pakistan. Ecological degradation in the basin is fast increasing, and threatens the livelihoods of millions who depend on its rich ecosystem.

The construction of dams on the Indus, both for irrigation and power generation, as well as the construction of drainage systems for agricultural run-off, are the major causes for the downward spiral of the Indus basin. The largest dam on the Indus is Tarbela Dam, which forced almost 100,000 people to leave their lands and homes. The World Bank-sponsored Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) Project is one of the main drainage systems in the delta. These projects are part of a wider set of infrastructure projects, the so-called Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS), which is the world’s largest irrigation system.

The Government of Pakistan is planning to build five more river development projects by 2016 that would further deteriorate the ecosystem of the Indus basin: Diamer-Bhasha, Kalabagh, Munda, Akhori and Kurram Tangi dams.

Women at a village meeting in Punjab, Pakistan.
Women at a village meeting in Punjab, Pakistan.

Affected communities in the Indus delta have been actively protesting the devastating impacts of the existing water development projects. International Rivers and other civil society organizations and networks are working with these communities to promote alternatives to the planned large dams.

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