Photo Credits – Sunset Parana Bhera © Zahoor Salmi / WWF-Pakistan

Central Indus Wetlands Complex

The Central Indus Wetlands Complex consists of a continuum of wetland resources along the main stem of the Indus River between the town of Chashma in the north and the city of Sukkur in the South. It includes braided and meandering river channels, islands, dhands or oxbow lakes and seasonally flooded depressions in the floodplains. The environment in which the complex is embedded is a vast, gently sloping semi-arid plain ranging in elevation from 125 m in the south to 585 m in the north. The complex is approximately 708 km long and varies in width from 9 – 23 km, occupies an area of about 9,700 km2.

Human habitation and resource-use

The CIWC is fairly densely populated with a high ratio of rural population and low industrial development. As a result, the socio-economic conditions in the region present a high level of poverty, income disparity and dependence on agriculture and natural resource based incomes.
Farming, fishing and other natural resource-based occupations form major sources of livelihood for the poor. Credit facilities are limited, mainly consisting of private sources, and repayment rates can be as high as 25%. Irrigated farming is the main livelihood in the area. Cotton, wheat and vegetable are the main crops grown for the urban market. The level of agrochemical use in farming is steadily increasing. Livestock ownership mainly supports agricultural income in the region. Fishing, involves a large number of people in the region mainly under a contract system that generally exploits poor fishermen. Traditional fishing methods are still used involving hook and line and nets of various types and size. Harmful fishing practices such as agrochemical poisoning of fish are also now practiced. Population pressures are high and majority of the population, especially female, has poor access to health and education.

Ecological Profile

CIWC is freshwater river system; where the aquatic environment creates a natural habitat to hold massive biological diversity of wide range of Piscean, Avian and wildlife species existing in and along its tributaries. Natural vegetation comprises of shrubs, grasslands, the terrain occupies dry sandy areas while plain areas are used for farming and agriculture. The CIWC is biologically very rich and productive; and supports a wide array of biodiversity ranging from microorganisms to large mammals like Blind dolphin and variety of resident and migratory waterfowls. Water of the CIWC is supportive to the local ecosystems, agriculture and for energy purposes.

Natural Vegetation

The natural vegetation is a mixture of subtropical semi-evergreen scrub and tropical thorn forest. This area fosters various species of herbs, shrubs, submerged plants, tall reeds, grasses and riparian vegetation. Species include Babul/Kikar, Kweek/ Couch grass, Walayati Keekar, Munj/Wood grass, Jhal/Pilu, Ghaz/Farash and Ber.


The wetlands are generally degrading due to a whole range of human–induced threats including the following:
  • Conversion of wetlands and their immediate surroundings for agriculture and other purposes
  • Damming of rivers and changes in water flow regimes
  • Over harvesting of many forms of wetlands resources
  • Felling of timber and deforestation in the riverine areas
  • Organic and inorganic pollution of wetlands
  • Policy deficiencies and inadequate management
  • Lack of awareness among the locals about the importance of wetlands

What is WWF-Pakistan doing for Conservation of CIWC?

WWF-Pakistan launched the following projects/programmes to conserve the fragile ecosystems of the region
  • Indus River Dolphin Conservation Programme (Ongoing initiative)
  • Pakistan Wetlands Programme (2006-2012)
  • Improving Livelihood of Fisher Communities in CIWC (2012-2015)
  • Pond Area Protection Project (2011-2013)