Deaths of dozens of malnourished and sick children after a 3-year drought in Pakistan's Thar desert have finally got the media attention and forced politicians to take notice of the unfolding tragedy. Emergency aid is now being provided by the Pakistani military and the civil society. And promises are being made by the politicians to do more for the poor, mostly Hindu, residents of the affected region.
The Thar situation today reminds of what happened during America's Dust Bowl in the 1930s that lasted almost a decade. It forced millions of people in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas to migrate to other parts of the country, particularly California. Drought caused windblown dust and devastation of agriculture in the region. Some believe with good reason that the Dust Bowl accentuated and extended the Great Depression for several more years than would have been the case otherwise.
Here's what John Steinbeck wrote about the Dust Bowl in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath:
"And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."
Like the residents of the American plains affected by the Dust Bowl in 1930s, the people of Thar desert region rely on their crops and livestock for their livelihood. Since there is a very limited irrigation system in the area, they depend almost entirely on rains to grow their crops and raise cattle.
The area currently affected by drought is relatively small but it could expand rapidly and turn into a much bigger tragedy unless the government and the people wake up to it. In addition to providing immediate relief, there is a strong need for a longer term strategy to improve water storage and irrigation in the region.
It's not just Thar region. The problem that needs to be addressed is much bigger. Pakistan has increasingly been suffering from cycles of severe droughts followed by massive floods in the last few years. This recurring pattern of shortage and excess of water gives us a preview of the growing challenge of climate change. This situation calls for a comprehensive water management effort to deal with a potentially existential threat to Pakistan.
Before the summer floods of 2010, the Indus had turned into a muddy puddle in parts of Sindh. Britain's Financial Times reported at the the time that "angry farmers marched through villages in Sindh demanding access to water. Those who can no longer turn a profit in the fields are increasingly resorting to banditry or migrating to urban shanties".
Earlier, there was a 2009 report by the Woodrow Wilson International Center saying that the melting Himalayan glaciers have exacerbated Pakistan’s shortages. And the World Bank warned that Pakistan could face a “terrifying” 30-40 per cent drop in river flows in 100 year’s time. Now large parts of Sindh are under water for the second year in a row, destroying lives and standing crops.
Growing Water Scarcity:
According to the United Nations' World Water Development Report, the total actual renewable water resources in Pakistan decreased from 2,961 cubic meters per capita in 2000 to 1,420 cubic meters in 2005. A more recent study indicates an available supply of water of little more than 1,000 cubic meters per person, which puts Pakistan in the category of a high stress country. Using data from the Pakistan's federal government's Planning and Development Division, the overall water availability has decreased from 1,299 cubic meters per capita in 1996-97 to 1,101 cubic meters in 2004-05. In view of growing population, urbanization and increased industrialization, the situation is likely to get worse. If the current trends continue, it could go as lows as 550-cubic meters by 2025. Nevertheless, excessive mining of groundwater goes on. Despite a lowering water table, the annual growth rate of electric tubewells has been 6.7% and for diesel tubewells about 7.4%. In addition, increasing pollution and saltwater intrusion threaten the country's water resources. About 36% of the groundwater is classified as highly saline.
So what can Pakistan do to manage these disastrous cycles of floods and droughts?
1. Build Dams and Dykes:
As the flood disasters took their toll , there were reports of USAID and ADB considering funding the $12 billion Bhasha Dam in Pakistan. The project is located on Indus River, about 200 miles upstream of the existing Tarbela Dam, 100 miles downstream from the Northern Area capital Gilgit in Gilgit-Baltistan region. The dam's reservoir would hold so much water that it could have averted last year's devastating floods. It would also provide enough electricity to end Pakistan's crippling shortages, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper. The massive dam on the Indus river would provide 4,500MW of renewable energy, making up for a shortfall causing up to 12 hours of load shedding on daily basis across Pakistan. The reservoir would be 50 miles long, holding 8.5 MAF (million acre feet) of water.
In addition to large dams, there is also a need to build and maintain dykes and start other flood-control and overground and underground water storage projects and drill deep wells in areas like Thar, Badin and Thatta in Sindh.
2. Conserve Water:
Building Bhasha and several other proposed dams will help in dealing with water scarcity, but the growing population will continue put pressure on the vital resource.
Serious conservation steps need to be taken to improve the efficiency of water use in Pakistani agriculture which claims almost all of the available fresh water resources. A California study recently found that water use efficiency ranged from 60%-85% for surface irrigation to 70%-90% for sprinkler irrigation and 88%-90% for drip irrigation. Potential savings would be even higher if the technology switch were combined with more precise irrigation scheduling and a partial shift from lower-value, water-intensive crops to higher-value, more water-efficient crops. Rather than flood irrigation method currently used in Pakistani agriculture, there is a need to explore the use of drip or spray irrigation to make better use of nation's scarce water resources before it is too late. As a first step toward improving efficiency, Pakistan government launched in 2006 a US $1.3 billion drip irrigation program that could help reduce water waste over the next five years. Early results are encouraging. "We installed a model drip irrigation system here that was used to irrigate cotton and the experiment was highly successful. The cotton yield with drip irrigation ranged 1,520 kg to 1,680 kg per acre compared to 960 kg from the traditional flood irrigation method," according to Wajid Ishaq, a junior scientist at the Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology(NIAB).
Beyond the government-funded experiments, there is a drip irrigation company called Micro Drip which is funded by the Acumen Fund. Micro Drip develops and provides products and services as poverty alleviation solutions to small farmers in Pakistan’s arid regions. It provides a complete drip irrigation system along with agricultural training and after-sales support to enable farmers to extract a higher yield from their land at a much lower cost of input.
So what is holding up Pakistan's progress on water management?
1. Lack of Funds:
Pakistani government revenues continue to be limited by slow economic growth and widespread culture of tax evasion. The biggest culprits are the ruling feudal politicians who oppose any attempt to levy taxes on their farm income. The limited resources the state does have are usually squandered on political patronage doled out to ruling politicians' supporters in the form of capricious grants, huge loans (defaulted with impunity), and plum jobs in bloated government and the money-losing state-owned enterprises. The result of this blatant abuse, waste and fraud is that the budget allocations for vital long-term investments in education, health care and infrastructure development projects are regularly slashed thereby shortchanging the future of the nation.
2. Corruption and Security Concerns:
The NY Times has reported that "Washington’s fears of Pakistani corruption and incompetence has slowed disbursal of the money". The story reinforces the widely-held view that even after the funding is arranged, the corrupt and incompetent politicians and their hand-picked civilian administrators make any development progress slow and difficult. Such problems are further exacerbated by significant security issues in parts of the country severely plagued by ongoing militancy.
It can be argued that the threat from climate change is bigger than the Taliban threat which gets all the coverage in Pakistan. Generations of military families have periodically fought FATA insurgencies. For example, Shuja Nawaz, the author of Crossed Swords says that his grandfather, his uncle and his cousin have all been deployed in Waziristan by the British and later Pakistani governments in the last century and a half. Pakistani military is quite capable of dealing with this threat to defeat the Taliban.
Climate change and the growing water scarcity pose a bigger long-term existential threat to Pakistan and the region. Water per capita is already down below 1000 cubic meters and declining. What Pakistan needs are major 1960s style investments for a second Green Revolution to avoid the specter of mass starvation and political upheaval it will bring.
As to the current Thar crisis, corruption, incompetence and poor governance have characterized the Pakistan People's Party rule at the federal level and in Sind province for years. What is happening in Tharparkar now is symptomatic of it. The PPP voters in Sind, particularly in Tharparkar, are mostly poor haris many of whom are followers of powerful landowning feudal pirs who represent them in Sind assembly and in the national parliament. The voters never hold their representatives accountable for their total neglect of their areas. Instead, the powerful and ubiquitous media born on Musharraf's watch is doing it, as are the Supreme Court judges. I think it's a good development in Pakistan which will likely help the poor who have so far been helpless. I hope that the media focus is not just on the current crisis in Thar at the provincial level but also on the larger national issues of water management, storage and irrigation infrastructure the country needs to avert a much bigger disaster in the future.
Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan
Political Patronage in Pakistan
Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians
Pakistan's Energy Crisis
Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence
Climate Change in South Asia
US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia
You are claiming that Punjab should build more dams when you can literally walk across one bank of Indus river to the other along Kotri-Hydrabad bridge? There is zero water feeding Kalri and Haleji lakes, which has turned that water poisonous.
The drought in Thar is the result of diverson of 100% of Indus water to Punjab. Recently, some people in our family were able to walk in the Indus river bed from Kotri side bank to the Huderabad side bank. There is zero water in Indus 10 miles down the Kotri bridge.
Punjabis sold three rivers' water to India for 60 million pounds to use the money for lining Punjab's canals. Now those canals are fed water from Indus and Jhelum, whereas Jhelum was feeding Indus. All that water is used in Punjab. All the Indus delta mangroves are gone.
Thar desert has billions of cu-m of subsoil water. But the Sindh government has zero money (and zero intelligence) to tap that.
Thar desert has a very deep sand layer so all the rainwater is stored below grade as subsoil water, thus creating a more efficient reservoir than dams (and supply canals downstream) where evaporation losses are high. However, due to the deep sand bed, water is at a much greater depth than conventional wells. One of my friend's father, had started a welfare trust scheme digging deep wells in Thar villages, and Iqbal is still continuing it. So it is a proven fact that water shortage in Thar can be easily overcome by digging deep wells without going into mega schemes which will never materialize, and even when done will not help Thar water problem. People living in Thar areas bordering India say that villages on Indian side are fully developed with no water or infrastructure shortage.
The only reason for Thar water crisis is the extreme incompetence of PPP governments, and the extreme stupidity of Sindhi people who continue supporting PPP regardless of the losses they're suffering even at personal levels.
Where were the babus!
Thar Desert forms the extreme southeastern part of Pakistan, covering about 50,000 km2 area. It is one of the densely populated deserts of the world. Population of Thar is living primarily on limited agricultural products and by raising goats, sheep, cattle, and camels. The region is characterized by parallel chains of the NE-SW trending parabolic stable sanddunes having desertic varieties of vegetation, generally on windward sides, upto the rests. Interdunal areas are favourable for agricultural activities,
where crops are mainly dependent on rainwater.
Average rainfall is significant but inconsistent, due to recurrent drought-cycles causing inverse impact on food-production and socio-economic development. In spite of extensive groundwater-
exploration projects, accomplished by a number of organizations, the water-crisis of the region could
not be controlled, most probably due to lack of systematic exploration & development of deep groundwater potential. Management of the available water- resources is also not adequate,even to sustain a short period of drought-cycle. On recurrence of a drought-cycle, a significant section of the population is compelled to migrate towards other parts of the Sindh province, which affects their socio-economic stability.
har desert has semi-arid to arid climate. The present climatic situation in Pakistan is mainly influenced by the circulation of the monsoons, which depends on the movement of the intertropical convergence-zone. Strong, humid
and cold southwest-monsoons prevail in the summer months from May to September. The strength of the southwest monsoon depends
mainly on the pressure-gradient between the low air-pressure in Central Asia and high air-pressure
above the Indian Ocean.
Rate of annual rainfall increases from northwest to southeast (Figure-1). In the north of the Thar Desert, a, low rainfall region (with an average annual rainfall of less than 100 mm), exists around Rahimyar Khan.
On the other hand, in the southeast, comparatively high annual rainfall, up to 1000 mm, is received on the Indian side, across the border, around Udaipur. At western margin of the desert at Umarkot, an average of 208 mm/yr
rainfall was observed for a period of 42 years from 1897 to1929/1938 to1946 (Radojicic, 1980), but
an average of only 160 mm/yr rain was recorded from 1944 to 1958, indicating a cyclic fluctuation
of precipitation. To the southeast at Nagarparkar, about 360 mm/yr rainfall was recorded. However,
the rainfall is erratic and continuous spells of droughts, lasting for up to four years, have been experienced.
Practically, no rivers or streams exist in the Thar and the drainage is internal. Rainwater flows to
the nearest topographic low, as sheet flow that eventually either evaporates and/or infiltrates.
Most of the rains occur during July-August monsoon from southwest direction, whereas the prevailing winds are from the northeast during the rest of the year. During a good rainy-season, the
area becomes "Green Hilly Thar"
1. The present study indicates remarkable groundwater potential in the Thar Desert. Three sources have been identified: the bottom of the Dune Zone, the coal-bearing sedimentary units, and the basement.
2. In general, the regional gradients of the surface and top of the subrecent zone are towards south and southwest. The aquifers at the bottom of the Dune Zone significantly vary in quality (Saline to brackish) as well as in
their yield being dependent on rainfall in the northern areas, where the annual average is about 150 mm. The quality of water ranges from bad to marginal, but is usable under....
Here's a piece by Arif Hasan on Thar desert in Pakistan:
A subsistence economy existed in the Thar before the 1960s and the barter system prevailed amongst the peoples there and in their ties with the outside world. The desert people produced almost everything they needed for their existence, manufacturing even cloth, shoes and blankets locally. Their food consisted almost entirely of millet bread (bajre ki roti) and yogurt (lassi). Such items as tea, biscuits and city-made clothes and shoes were unknown and there were no shops in Thar villages. Animals were rarely sold for cash and the people"s only source of income was from the sale of ghee.
However, from 1947 onwards, there was a slow process of change in the desert, with a move to a cash economy and the integration of its economy with the Karachi and Hyderabad markets from 1972.
Pakistan"s Tharparkar district can be divided into two distinct areas: the barrage lands and the desert. The desert has a total area of 22,000 sq km and a population of about 800,000 -- which is approximately half the population of the district and more than 70 per cent of its land area.
As late as 1960 the district had not produced any doctors, engineers, lawyers or administrators and it had only a negligible number of teachers at the secondary school and college levels. Today, the district can boast of more than 4,000 professionals and the high school population has risen from about 7,500 in 1972 to well over 20,000 today.
Tharparkar professionals constitute an increasingly powerful political lobby from which a number of politically important figures is emerging.
The Thar lobby"s demands and concerns are no different from those of the peoples of Pakistan"s other arid and backward regions. However, they acquire both urgency and seriousness because they are supported by Karachi-based professionals, political figures and intellectuals.
The discovery of the Thar desert is part of the discovery of Sind by liberal Western circles in Karachi. Necessitated by the country"s political situation in 1965-75, this discovery stemmed from the need of the second generation of post-Independence Karachi residents to establish a relationship with the "culture of the soil". In the case of the Thar desert, with its fascinating ecology and colourful culture, this relationship acquired romance and passion.
Karachi"s first major contact with the Thar came in the wake of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, when a sizeable part of the desert population had to move out of the war zone. In order to survive, migrating Tharis were forced to sell their valuables to middlemen who resold them in the Karachi market. Soon, Thari rugs adorned the drawing rooms of Karachi"s elite and high society women took to wearing silver jewellery, cholis and embroidered shawls from the desert. This was the beginning of a regular trade in handicrafts that continues to this day.
Fascinated by the tales of desert traders and the handicrafts they brought back with them, young men went into the desert and encountered a desert that bloomed after the rains, strange, red rock formations standing aloof amidst an expanse of brown sand, women who wore bangles from wrist to shoulder, dancing peacocks and ruined temples. ....
Post-2000, the awkward, inconvenient truth is that, particularly during the regime of retired General Pervez Musharraf and former chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the physical infrastructure of Tharparkar reached an unprecedented level of progress.
Where, for example, in previous times, only about two kilometres of metalled road was built in a whole year, roads of the same length and more were built every month, and in even less time, for several years.
Grid electricity to main towns, water pipelines to large settlements, preparatory infrastructure for exploitation of coal reserves including work by the post-2008 PPP government, rapid proliferation of telecommunication and mobile phones have vastly enhanced mobility, access and information flow.
QUETTA, Pakistan, March 13 (UPI Next) --Drought and power shortages have decimated agriculture in parts of Pakistan's largest province, Balochistan, and driven local villagers to Quetta, the provincial capital.
Gulistan, a town on Balochistan's dusty border with Afghanistan, is one such place. For decades, trees and vines bore apples, grapes, pomegranates and peaches that were sold in markets across Pakistan and abroad, yielding Gulistan's residents comfortable lives.
Now, years of drought caused by climate change that have dried up channels that used to bring water from the mountains, electricity shortages resulting from Pakistan's insufficient national power grid and militant attacks, and water storage scarcity stemming from inadequate dam construction have forced villagers from Gulistan to abandon their homes and orchards. Dead tree trunks along the road are all that remain of the lush fruit groves that once defined the town.
"Twenty years of drought and attacks by separatist militants on electricity grid lines have destroyed our crops and orchards at a cost we estimate at billions of rupees," Haji Abdul Rehman Bazai, secretary-general of the Balochistan Landowners Association, told UPI Next.
"The land I own was capable of providing 200 [220-pound] bags of wheat, enough cumin, vegetables, apples, grapes, pomegranates, melons and watermelons," Haji Muhammad Essa Khan, a landowner from Gulistan's Qilla Abdullah district, told UPI Next.
"My yields have decreased by 80 percent per year since 2008 owing to long hours of electricity outages when militants started blowing up the power grid. Last year, I used 1.4 million rupees [about $13,000] worth of diesel just to protect the grapevines and apple and pomegranate trees," he said
Before the drought, there were 3,325 ancient watering channels, Bazai told UPI Next.
"We used watering channels for irrigation. Underground tunnels were constructed to gather subsoil water, by gravity, at the foothills. This water was then either taken to the fields and villages through vertical shafts sunk underground, or it was drawn out at the foot of the hill where it was gathered," Bazai said.
These channels --'Karez' in the local Pashto -- used to bring water from nearby snow-clad mountains. However, drought has dried up 95 percent of these watering channels, Faiz Kakar, program manager at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said.
He said the channels were initially used for drinking water and were used for farming purposes in some areas.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2014/03/13/Long-term-drought-power-shortages-slam-villages-in-Pakistan-province/41381418205318/
Here's an AFP report on crisis in Tharparkar:
Mithi (Pakistan) (AFP) - As the death toll from the latest outbreak of poverty-driven diseases in Pakistan's Thar desert nears 100 children, experts are warning that corruption and a dysfunctional political system make a repeat of the disaster almost inevitable.
The desert region in Tharparkar, one of Pakistan's poorest districts, spreads over nearly 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles) in the country's southeast and is home to some 1.3 million people, including a large population of minority Hindus.
Between March 2013 and February this year, rainfall was 30 percent below usual, according to government data, with the worst-hit towns of Diplo, Chacro and Islamkot barely touched by a drop of water for months.
Asif Ikram, the second most senior administration official in the district, told AFP on Thursday that the death toll from diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis since December 1 had risen to 161 people, including 97 children.
Life in the desert is closely tied to rain-dependent crops and animals, with farmers relying on beans, wheat, and sesame seeds for survival, bartering surplus in exchange for livestock.
The drought is not the only reason for the recent deaths -- observers say they have come about as a result of endemic poverty, exacerbated by the drought and an outbreak of disease killing livestock.
Authorities have been busy dispensing food aid and sending medics to attend to the sick following visits by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who leads the Pakistan People's Party which rules the province.
But observers say the relief work fails to address the root causes of such disasters and warn they are likely to be repeated.
A drought in the desert in 2000 killed 90 percent of the livestock.
- Politically invisible -
Zafar Junejo, chief executive of Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP), says the region has long been ignored by Karachi, the provincial capital, because it is not considered an important constituency politically.
According to the last census, Hindus make up 40 percent of the district's population, unlike most of Pakistan which is overwhelmingly Muslim, and Junejo said the authorities have little concern for the suffering of minority communities.
"We are fortunately or unfortunately a mixed Hindu and Muslim population," he said.
"Fortunate because we are living in peace and harmony unlike the rest of the country where radicalisation is in vogue....
And now comes the latest scourge: Famine.
In recent days, media reports have revealed that dozens of people—many of them children—have died from malnutrition over the last three months in the bone-dry desert region of Thar, in the southern province of Sindh. And yet things could soon get much worse. A recent UNICEF report, noting that drought has “devastated” crops and livestock and that “hundreds of thousands” of people have fled, warns of a possible “massive humanitarian crisis” in Thar. Ominously, almost 3 million people “risk starvation” across Pakistan.
Many Pakistani press accounts—and numerous Pakistani politicians—depict the Thar tragedy as a catastrophic case of negligence by Sindh’s provincial government. They fault local officials for taking too long to get food assistance to those in need late last year when drought conditions first began to set in. And they single out authorities for failing to transfer sick children in remote areas to better hospitals.
Yet the Thar famine also reflects another type of failure: that of democracy.
In recent years, Pakistan—a country ruled by the military for about half its existence— has made remarkable democratic progress. With successive free elections, civilian rule is firmly in place. Pakistan’s mighty military has mellowed. Constitutional amendments have decentralized power. The Supreme Court is increasingly targeting powerful people and institutions. And private media outlets have rapidly proliferated.
However, there are limits to this progress.
The most commonly cited obstacles to deeper democratization are the military, which continues to exert heavy influence over politics; a lack of pluralism and tolerance, which contributes to the deplorable plight of religious minorities; and the country’s abysmal law enforcement, which enables militants to operate with impunity.
Yet the tragedy in Thar underscores a more insidious and underreported threat to democracy: Astounding manifestations of land inequality.
In Sindh, a paltry 0.05 percent of households hold more than five acres of land (the figure is similar in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province). In the nation as a whole, 2 percent of households own nearly 50 percent of land, while 5 percent of agricultural households own nearly two thirds of Pakistan’s farmland.
This means that the majority of the population holds little to no land. Without land, it’s difficult to access food and water (and it’s also difficult to earn a livelihood; landless Pakistanis make up 70 percent of the country’s rural poor). Most Pakistanis must depend on a tiny, wealthy landowning minority for access to these natural resources.
These resources, and the land that holds them, are becoming increasingly precious. According to one alarming estimate, Pakistan loses three acres of good agricultural land every 20 minutes. In Thar, land and natural resources are further imperiled by Islamabad’s plan to tap into the region’s vast coalfields to ease the country’s severe energy crisis. Officials insist there will be no deleterious impacts on local communities, but there’s good reason to fear that such exploitation could cause environmental distress and displacement, and deprive an impoverished region of a critical natural resource. These are very real problems in equally dry and poor Baluchistan, a province long subjected to intensive natural resource extractions by Islamabad and large corporations. Such conditions have helped fuel a long-running separatist insurgency.
While Suhail may claim PPP incompetence, the fact is that Punjab is getting nearly 70% of all Sindh's gas for literally free, and to top that, OGDC is earning nearly a billion dollars in profits on that. Sindh has zero secretaries in the federal government and Punjabis decide how much to dole out to Sindh. All the garbage from KP and Punjab lands in Karachi and is a huge burden on Sindh which is spending nearly 70% of its money on security, mostly in the form of salaries to the Punjabi rangers and Shaukat Hayats.
After the implementation of the 18th amendment, revenue from GST (@17%) is now going to provincial governments. Sindh govt. has extended the coverage of GST to a wide range of services including small businesses such as boutiques, hair dressers, accountants, legal and medical practitioners, software houses etc (restaurants were already included). With Karachi still representing by far the biggest share of country's economy through its industry, commerce and services sectors, this is windfall income for the Sindh govt that has further distracted their attention from all governance functions, focusing only on how to misappropriate more money.
Regarding Thar tragedy, the only action that Qaim Ali Shah took was dismissal of the Relief Minister, Makhdoom Jamil S/O Makhdoom Amin Fahim, while taking no action against his son-in-law who was a top bureaucrat related to the same functions. Yesterday, there was a patch up between Makhdoom Amin and Qaim Ali Shah and Makhdoom Jamil was reinstated. All Sindh govt actions regarding Thar negligence thus stand finished and things back to normal. The only difference is that the Sindh govt now has Rs. 1 billion of additional funds at its disposal, donated by Nawaz Sharif, probably the reason for mending fences within PPP leadership.
With PPP around and Sindhis continuing their support to it, Punjabis have very little to do for keeping Sindhis in subjugation. Plus the fact that Sindhi leadership, PPP as well as nationalists, sell themselves cheap makes the task of Punjabis even more easy. So if you want to liberate Sindh from Punjabis, you'll need to change the Sindhi mindset first, or sell the idea of colonizing Sindh to the Americans.
On my visit to Karachi, my bright nephew who is studying economics echoed what I believe is the voice of the youth there. Corruption, mismanagement, poor allocation of resources and cronyism shaves off a big chunk of Pakistan GDP growth. The water problem you highlight is not due to scarcity alone but poor governance. For that we cannot blame the US or the British Raj or hostile neighbors but the disease is internal.
How much GDP growth is affected now and in the future? The problem is the politicians talk big and come up with grand plans but then everything gets fizzled.
You have not answered the question regarding things like - nearly $17 billion worth of natural gas being given to the Punjab at zero cost. What is a f---- Rs 1 billion compared to that.
Giving away gas at low cost and such things are correct. But given the total lack of capacity of PPP government, had the $17 billion been at their disposal, all of it would have been misappropriated and nothing invested into Sindh. This is exactly what I'm saying. Unless Sindh undergoes a renaissance or is colonized by Americans rather than Punjabis, it cannot develop.
Last night, there was a news item about a peace deal between the two criminal gangs of Lyari, Uzair Baloch and Baba Ladla gangs. The deal was brokered at the Hyderabad residence of Ayaz Latif Palijo, where Uzair Baloch's negotiating team was led by the Lyari PPP MPA. You can well imagine the total lack of concept of governance when PPP legislators are openly representing the top criminal gang of Karachi. With such lack of capacity, Punjabis are having a field day.
Here's a National Geographic piece on Thar coal development in Pakistan:
The current acute energy crisis in Pakistan, certainly the worst of all times is heating up an indigenous extractive resource scramble in a remote part of Pakistan with unusual demographics. The Tharparker District or simply the Thar Desert located in the southeastern province of Sindh is under spot light because of a 175 billion tons of estimated coal reserves lying beneath its surface. These reserves have been known for around two decades, but only recently has development gained momentum to generate power in order to propel the country’s ailing economy. The signs of a resource boom are already animating the dull landscape of the region – roads, airports, site offices, power lines, guest houses and rising real estate price are evident. Near the town of Islamkot, an underground coal gassification pilot project represents the scale of possible change where workers sourced from local communities rest their heads after long-hour shifts.
Understanding the quandary faced by the residents of the Thar Desert took me to several villages situated in the vicinity of the coal fields to gather some basic ethnographic data on community perceptions of the project. Tharparker is home to around 1.5 million people stretching its boundaries with Indian Rajasthan and the Great Ran of Kutch salt marsh. The indigenous communities of Menghwar, Kolhi and Bheel make up a large part of the rural human settlement. The land is famous for rippling sand dunes, distinct folklore, rain-starved shrubs, drying wells, bottomed indicators of health, poverty and education and the most food insecure district in the country. One of the villages Mauakharaj of Tharparker, just beside an airport being built to host coal companies, has abject poverty and deprivation. The whole village is culturally and socially crippled because of fluorosis; a disease caused by consumption of excessive fluoride in groundwater, with no remedy and still people compelled to use it.
The conversation did not lead to consensus on what approach should be dominant but there was a agreement that Thar coal development should not be a first resort but much further down the priority scale for addressing Pakistan’s energy crisis. As Pakistan’s election approaches, energy is a ballot issue and polemics are rife on panacea solutions. It is high time that Pakistanis consider their energy predicament with a multifaceted strategy that transcends petty nationalism so that communal harmony is not compromised for short-term and inefficient power solutions.
Very timely article, sir. Looks like the rot is spreading to Cholistan. Also I wud have wished that apart from high investment strategies like drip irrigation and dam building you had focussed on water and soil conservation and organic farming. Higher soil organic C content substantially increases retention of rain water and reduces dependence on irrigation, which is always a more dangerous and not to say expensive source of water.
Couple of reports on Pakistani politicians promising water projects:
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in Sindh province of Pakistan is installing 683 solar-powered reverse osmosis plants in the drought-hit areas of Tharparkar and other arid regions to provide 10,000 gallons of safe drinking water daily.
“As the world observes International Water Day, we reiterate our commitment to ensuring a well-irrigated and greener Sindh and Pakistan,” PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in a statement released on Sunday.
According to Bilawal, the PPP government has initiated the renewal of 3,420 miles of canals and embankments, construction and repair of 3,890 water courses, installation of 1,762 tube wells, introduction of sprinkle-and-drip irrigation systems and rain guns, and renovation and repair of the Sukkur Barrage, the Dawn online reported.
Five-hundred water treatment plants would be set up in the towns of Keamari and Lyari in Karachi and the world’s biggest water filtration plant would be set up in the district of Shaheed Benazirabad, also in Sindh province, he added.
The Desert Rangers Force has also joined the civil administration in relief operation and for providing drinking water to the drought-hit people of Cholistan. This was stated by Bahawalpur Sector Commander of Desert Rangers Brigadier Riazul Hassan.
The sector commander said that the relief operation regarding the provision of drinking water to the human population in the desert had been launched at the request of the civil administration.
He said drinking water was supplied to thousands of inhabitants staying around the Bijnot and Rhenalwala open water ponds, which had gone dry because of the dry spell. He said these two ponds were around 160 kilometres far....
Development minister says National Water Policy in the offing soon
Pakistan Water Summit 2014 highlights themes including groundwater sustainability, trans-boundary waters, water-food-energy nexus and innovative financing for water infrastructure among others
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said on Thursday that the government was taking strong measures to avoid water crisis in the country.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recreated Ministry of Planning and Development with a view not to repeat past mistakes in terms of water and this summit was a step towards evolving National Water Policy which would soon be announced by the government”, the federal minister said while addressing Pakistan Water Summit 2014.
Federal Minister for National Food and Agriculture Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan, Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada and other officials were also present on the occasion. He said the summit comprises of 14 themes and the experts would present their opinions on these themes.
The 14 themes of the summit include groundwater sustainability, trans-boundary waters, understanding water security and impacts on national security, water-food-energy nexus, innovative financing for water infrastructure, drinking water and sanitation, water technologies for 21st century, climate change impacts on water availability(droughts, floods, glaciers), research and education for water secure future, industrial effluent, water infrastructure, development reforms, system efficiency for urban utilities, agriculture water productivity.
Here's a Dawn story on World Bank report on infrastructure deficiency in South Asia:
ISLAMABAD: South Asia should spend as much as $2.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 to bring its power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard required to serve its growing population, said a World Bank report on Wednesday.
“If South Asia hopes to meet its development goals and not risk slowing down — or even halting — growth, poverty alleviation and shared prosperity… it is essential to make closing its huge infrastructure gap a priority,” the report said in probably the first analysis of the region’s infrastructure needs.
The report, entitled “Reducing poverty by closing South Asia’s infrastructure gap”, says that “infrastructure deficiencies in South Asia are enormous, and a mix of investment in infrastructure stock and implementing supportive reforms will enable the region to close its infrastructure gap”.
Pakistan should invest $165 billion over ten years in improving infrastructure in transport, electricity, water and sanitation, solid waste, telecom and irrigation sectors, according to the report.
For the required investment in electricity sector of up to $96bn, Pakistan should generate funds through government-private sector partnership, the report said.
The average share of Pakistan in the total infrastructural investment in South Asia is only 12 per cent compared to 79 per cent by India, the report says.
Sunday, July 06, 2014 - OBVIOUSLY, Arid Varsity by virtue of its name is known as a last line of defense against water scarcity, and joining the ranks & files by the present Vice Chancellor furthered the notion of its emergence as a change agent, especially for rainfed and dry land agriculture. Metrological footprints of Pakistan reveal abundant rainfall ranging from 200mm to 1500mm per annum, but our ignorance as a nation put us besides the lines by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798) while sailing in the ocean said “Water Water Every Where, Nor Any Drop to Drink”. By turning the coin, situation seems more pathetic, as this country faces mayhem of floods claiming thousands of lives, economic devastation and convert booming crops into inundated, almost every year. Is that not a dark side of the situation demanding an action oriented policy by the higher ranks of the country?
In this program 5 farm ponds with a capacity of 55 acre-ft of water have been excavated. Experience indicates that these ponds were filled to their capacity in early rain showers of the monsoon season 2013. It can be safely opined, farm ponds of same size or even larger capacity for rain harvesting in the region are imperative to cater the crop husbandry in the years to come. The University has prepared a program of raising high value crops from these ponds. The developed farm ponds are sufficient to irrigate an area of 150 acres orchard crops including olive, grapes, citrus, fig, apricot, almond, pears besides tunnel vegetables especially tomato, cucumber, etc. using drip irrigation. The University rain harvesting model is meant for production and knowledge dissemination to the Pothwar farmers. Experts understand that rainwater harvesting can be extended to other parts of the country even in irrigated area and especially with sloping lands such as Cholistan, Thar, Thal, Baluchistan, KPK and AJK. Being a water professional Prof. Dr. Rai Niaz Ahmad, Vice Chancellor played a pivotal role for initiation and completion of this pilot project at the Farm.
Ground water provides a huge natural reservoir, for instance, Rechna Doab (area between Ravi and Chena) alone equates the capacity of 5 Mangla reservoirs. This is a loud and clear message for our policy makers considering option of harvesting flood water in the groundwater reservoirs, since the flood flows carry around 30 to 40 MAF of water every year to the Arabian Sea whereas the minimum flow required to the sea is only 10 MAF. These ponds would be greatly contributing towards recharge of groundwater reservoir, which is under threat at the moment.
The rooftop rainwater harvesting in the urban areas provides another opportunity for kitchen gardening of vegetables for domestic at household level. The practice of kitchen gardening is very famous and popular in most of the developed world where rooftop rainwater is harvested and used for vegetation. It is worth considering that devastation witnessed during the monsoon floods in Pakistan can be minimized if flooding waters are ponded both at upstream and downstream along the river banks as practiced in other parts of the world. In view of all this, Govt. of Pakistan needs to initiate a comprehensive program on rain/flood water management. Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi offers its services for preparing a mega project for rainwater harvesting both and urban rural areas of Pakistan.
The United States on Wednesday pledged support for Pakistan’s massive $14 billion 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha dam project as top officials and business leaders explored investment prospects, amid exponential energy needs of America’s ‘critical partner’ nation.
Both the US officials – including US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah and US Special Representative Dan Feldman – and Pakistan’s Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Minister for Water & Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who is also defence minister, highlighted tremendous opportunities for American and international investors in the ‘transformational’ power generation and water storage project.
The officials spoke at a joint platform that brought together senior leaders and experts and business leaders at the US Chamber of Commerce at a meeting, co-hosted by the USAID and the US-Pakistan Business Council. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani and US Ambassador in Islamabad Richard Olson participated in the daylong conference, spread over several sessions.
Pakistan needs 10,000MW of power to meet its rapidly growing domestic, industrial and agrarian requirements. The materialisation of Diamer-Bhasha dam will be a giant step in that quest.
Besides producing 4,500MW of power, the dam will help with four million acre of water for irrigation, save millions from flash flooding, boost other hydro projects and contribute vitally to extending life of Tarbela Dam by 30 years.
The Obama administration officials assured the investors of effective results, citing results from US-financed energy up-gradating projects in Pakistan.
“We know that success can take hold,” Dr Shah said in reference to completion of small projects and addition to power generation capacity of large dams.
Daniel Feldman said the US and Pakistan have a wide-ranging strategic partnership and that Washington is in for a long-term economic and investment relationship with Pakistan, particularly in the energy field. “Investment in Diamer-Bhasha dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan,” Feldman remarked, reiterating the White House and Secretary John Kerry’s commitment to back economic and energy security of Pakistan.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is committed to encouraging foreign investment in various sectors of the economy and is crystal clear that the country needs both the Dasu and Bhasha dams. “We have demonstrated our commitment – and acquired land from own indigenous resources,” he added.
He apprised the meeting of government’s robust economic agenda, saying Islamabad has stemmed the economic downslide it inherited and now exports, GDP rate, remittances, revenue collection and industrial growth, have all registered marked growth.
“Despite demonstrations in Islamabad, the rupee has been fairly staying at stable exchange rate, while inflation has also been checked,” he added. Senator Dar said the government has paid off circular debt it had inherited from the previous administration.
Khawaja Asif said Washington’s support for the vital Diamer-Bhasha dam would cement the relationship between the two countries.
From Hydroworld on Diamer Bhasha dam in Pakistan:
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks bids to perform a technical engineering review and upgrade of plans for Pakistan's proposed 4,500-MW Diamer Bhasha hydroelectric project on the Indus River. Bids are due November 17.
USAID also has called for bids by October 27 to provide financial advisory services to the government of Pakistan for Diamer Bhasha. It awarded a contract in September to MWH Global to perform an environmental and social impact assessment of the project.
USAID has pledged US$200 million toward development of Diamer Basha, with funds to be used for assessment of environmental and social effects of the proposed project as well as preparation of a financial package. The project is to include a 272-meter-tall roller-compacted-concrete dam, two diversion tunnels, two underground powerhouses of 2,250 MW each, a permanent access bridge, and hydro-mechanical and steel structural equipment.
USAID/Pakistan now seeks bids for technical assessment, review and upgrade of the engineering design, cost estimates and documentation for Diamer Bhasha. The work is expected to require one year at a cost of US$5.59 million to US$6.59 million.
A solicitation notice may be obtained from the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities Internet site, www.fbo.gov, by entering Solicitation No. AID39114000059 in the "Keyword/Solicitation #" box.
Bidders are to submit separate technical and cost proposals by 4 p.m., U.S. Eastern time, November 17. For information, contact Maria Hassan, Acquisition and Assistance Specialist, Department of State, USAID Unit 62206, APO 09812-2206, Islamabad, Pakistan; (92) 51-2081285; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
KARACHI: Asia's largest reverse osmosis plant, having a capacity to produce two million gallons of water daily, was inaugurated today in Pakistan's drought-ridden Sindh province.
The plant which is billed to produce two million gallons of water per day is expected to reduce the water crisis in Tharparkar district where last year hundreds of children have lost their lives by drinking untreated water.
Former President Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the plant. Zardari, who is also co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party which heads the province, said his party was committed to provide clean drinking water to the people of the area.
Zardari said Asia's biggest RO plant has been set up at a cost of Rs 300 million while many smaller plants having a capacity of 10,000 gallons per day have also been set up across the region at a cost of around Rs 2.5 million each.
The Sindh government plans to install 300 reverse osmosis (RO) plants in water-starved regions of the province by February.
The number of the ROs already made operational is 150. Irshad Hussain, the chief operating officer of Pak Oasis, the company that has been working in Thar's water sector since 2004, said the government had allocated Rs 5.4 billion allocated to set up RO plants in the region.
He said these plants can be operated through electricity or solar energy and steps were being taken to convert most of the filter plants to solar energy.
"It is solar energy that matters here in this region as it makes operation of ROs cost effective," he added.
Taj Haider, a senior PPP leader who is overlooking the operation in the region said: "For years now people living in the region have had to travel several kilometres to fetch a few buckets of clean water from reservoirs in their area. The situation is going to change now for the people of Tharparkar.
Reverse osmosis plant uses a purification technology that remove salts and other pollutants from water.
Knut Oberhagemann, a water expert in Dhaka, Bangladesh, says that the flow of the mighty Ganges where it enters Bangladesh is at times a pitiful few hundred cubic metres a second, so low that “you can walk across the river”. When the same river, at this point called the Padma, reaches the coast, it is often so feeble that the sea intrudes, poisoning the land with salt.
BBC on Thar:
The last time I was in Tharparkar in 2000 it was to report on one of the more severe droughts this region has experienced.
Fifteen years later, in some ways much has changed.
Back then, I remember travelling for hours on sandy tracks in a rickety old World War Two American truck called Kekra (meaning tortoise). These slow-moving trucks were the main mode of transport between border towns and the district capital Mithi. Today, there are shiny new roads linking most of the major towns in Thar.
Back then, radio was the only mass medium and news travelled by word of mouth. Today, the arrival of mobile phones in the main villages has transformed the way people can connect with each other and the rest of the world.
Electricity infrastructure is still lacking. But solar power has gained momentum.
Travelling in Thar these days, it is not uncommon to come across roadside vendors offering to charge your mobile phone using solar panels.
And yet, despite these improvements in communications, social sectors like health and education have continued to suffer.
This region has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. On most measures of development, Thar is at the bottom of Pakistan's 120 districts.
Doctors and nurses are hard to find. Qualified medical staff from the region often leave to earn much more money in big cities like Karachi.
In Thar, there are many villages without schools and many schools without teachers.
It's part of an overall crisis of governance, say critics. They blame the provincial government of Sindh - run by the party of former president Asif Ali Zardari - for corruption and institutional failures.
But the government defends its performance by pointing to its massive investment in a new scheme to bring clean drinking water to the region.
The $33m project involves installing 750 water purification projects in villages across the desert region. Of these, as of this month, about 280 have already been installed, says PakOasis, the company running the project.
The scheme is being billed as a ray of hope for Thar. It uses imported Danish technology to pump underground water. Impurities from the water are then removed using American membrane technology. The filtration process is called Reverse Osmosis (RO).
Each RO plant runs on zero-electricity cost. It is powered by solar panels imported from China.
The biggest of these water plants stands on a hill near Mithi. It has the capacity of purifying 2 million gallons of water daily. At its full capacity, it is expected to benefit 300,000 people.
The project was meant to go online later this year. But reeling under heavy public criticism for not doing enough, the government inaugurated it with much fanfare in January.
#Pakistan Army distributes 25 tons of rations in #Thar, sets up medical camp, making up for #PPP failures in #Sindh http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/05-Mar-2016/pakistan-army-distributes-25-tons-of-rations-in-thar …
The Pakistan Army distributed 25 tons of rations among the affected people of Chachro in district Tharparkar in a two-day long relief operation.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, besides provision of rations the army doctors also treated over 1,200 patients at the medical camp. Over the last year the Pakistan Army has distributed 574 tons of rations among 36,000 families and has treated over 40,000 patients.
Heat stress increases long-term human migration in rural Pakistan
By V. Mueller, C. Gray & K. Kosec
Human migration attributable to climate events has recently received significant attention from the academic and policy communities 1, 2. Quantitative evidence on the relationship between individual, permanent migration and natural disasters is limited 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. A 21-year longitudinal survey conducted in rural Pakistan (1991–2012) provides a unique opportunity to understand the relationship between weather and long-term migration. We link individual-level information from this survey to satellite-derived measures of climate variability and control for potential confounders using a multivariate approach. We find that flooding—a climate shock associated with large relief efforts—has modest to insignificant impacts on migration. Heat stress, however—which has attracted relatively little relief—consistently increases the long-term migration of men, driven by a negative effect on farm and non-farm income. Addressing weather-related displacement will require policies that both enhance resilience to climate shocks and lower barriers to welfare-enhancing population movements.
Chinese-backed coal excavation and power plants will displace thousands of people and deplete groundwater in Thar, a region ravaged by drought.
The Thar desert in Sindh province contains 175 billion tonnes of lignite coal – one of the largest untapped coal deposits in the world. It is also one of the most populated deserts in the world – home to world heritages sites and endangered species. Most of the 1.6 million people who live in the Thar desert region live in poverty and are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Twenty five percent of people live within the proposed coal development area. They thought they would benefit, but that has not been the case.
It was only in 2015 that work began on the fields, when the Thar coal project was included as part of a string of energy and infrastructure deals signed under the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. These agreements included eight coal-fired power plants and a 3,000-kilometre network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas from Gwadar Port on the Arabian sea to Kashgar, in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang.
In December 2015, China approved a USD 1.2 billion investment for surface mining of Thar coal and the establishment of 660 MW power projects. The deposits are divided into 12 blocks, each containing 2 billion tonnes of coal. In the first phase the Sindh provincial government has allocated block II to Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) to excavate 1.57 billion tonnes of coal and build a 660 megawatt power plant. The plant is expected to send power to the Pakistani national grid by June 2019 and will later be expanded to produce 1,320 MW of power.
A state-owned Chinese company, the China Machinery & Engineering Corporation, is providing the machinery and technical support for the excavation of coal and building and running the power plant. The local company will provide human resources, management and be responsible for the distribution of power. SECMC say the project has created 200 technical jobs and 1,600 menial positions. But locals have been protesting that the company has not even given them the menial jobs. Around 300 Chinese, including the engineers, miners and experts are also working on the site.
The Chinese team have started excavating the first pit. In the first phase SECMC will relocate five villages, which are located in block II, including Thario Halepoto village.
SECMC has started paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land. SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, claims that his company will do all they can to help the villagers.
“We will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” he told thethirdpole.net
He said that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – PKR 185,000 (USD 1,900) per acre. However locals say this price does not take into account its high environmental value and they do not want to be relocated to the new towns, the exact location of which is yet to be decided.
A SECMC official said that the company will plant 10 trees for every tree cut. So far the company has planted 12,000 trees in an 18 acre area called the Green Park and more trees will be planted in next two years.
SECMC’s Shaikh rejected such claims saying his company would only use 1,400 acres for two reservoirs to store the water extracted during excavation. “It will be natural underground saline water, not toxic or poisonous in any way and it will not affect any village,” he claimed.
Last week I had the chance to visit Thar again after more than a decade. While it remains an extremely poor and least developed region of the province of Sindh, I was struck by a few changes that have the potential of transforming the region into a vibrant economic player. Water is the most basic need in a desert. Last time round, I observed that Thardeep, a rural support organisation that has worked in the area since the early nineties, had achieved some success in improving provision and quality of drinking water in selected areas. Traditional birth attendants, some dispensaries and a few “barefoot” doctors was all that it could manage in the field of health. It also ran a number of schools. Linkages between craftswomen and middlemen from the market were few and far between. Government presence was minimal. The district hospital in Mithi was a mess. Roads were almost nonexistent.
Fast forward to August 2016. The road from Karachi to Thatta is a shame and Thatta to Thar via Badin is tolerable. Enter Thar and it is a different world. The main road here is probably the best highway of Sindh. It leads to coal mining areas, power stations and the gasification plant. Coal mining is a joint venture of the Government of Sindh and ENGRO, subcontracted further to a concern named Bilal. There is no knowing whether usable coal will eventually be available to the power plant being constructed next door. The coal gasification plant is no more than a monument to our atomic veteran.
The impact of the road, augmented by mobile connectivity, is multidimensional. Walking long distances has given way to motorbikes and overloaded buses have taken the place of kekras, the rickety shuttle truck-bus of the World War II vintage. Children suffering from malnutrition and other ailments are reported directly to the media as well as the hospital in Mithi on mobile phones. The high numbers of the suffering children had always existed; only the media was late in discovering these cases. The media attention did bring politicians and bureaucrats to the region, facilitated of course by the road. The hospital in Mithi is now much better staffed and well-stocked with medicines. It is now a thriving town with a good number of schools and a college. Even an English-medium private school was in evidence. A sub-campus of a university is also coming up. Locals complained about the lack of girls schools, especially at the post-primary level. This is a sign of growing awareness. There was also frustration that the locals are not given the party tickets for the National and Provincial assembly seats. Mobile connectivity and the road have linked the famous craftswomen of Thar with the main markets much more effectively. At a community meeting in Islam Kot, women were quoting prices that broadly corresponded with the prices charged in Karachi’s Zeb un Nisa Street.
Another change is the large number of government buildings, most of them left incomplete. Many that are completed, are uninhabited. Those complete and inhabited are poorly maintained. The tourist complex built at the legendary Marvi well is a case in point. A beautiful tourist complex in Nagar Parkar, designed by friend Arif Hasan, funded by Sindh’s Planning and Development Department and managed by Thardeep is another case in point.
At the end of the day, there may or may not be good quality coal or power, but the very presence of the road is rapidly opening up the area. As for power, the people are beginning to learn that the best off-grid solution is the sun that shines over Thar most of the time. I, though, had the good fortune of witnessing rains and greenery in a desert — an exhilarating experience.
Indian media on Bunji and Bhasha dams in Gilgit Baltistan:
China To Invest $27 Billion In Construction Of Two Mega Dams In Pakistan-Occupied Gilgit-Baltistan
China and Pakistan have inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of two mega dams in Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state that remains under latter’s illegal occupation. The MoU was signed during the visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Beijing for participation in the recently concluded Belt and Road Initiative.
The two dams, called Bunji and Diamer-Bhasha hydroelectricity projects, will have the capacity of generating 7,100MW and 4,500MW of electricity respectively. China will fund the construction of the two dams, investing $27 billion in the process, a report authored by Brahma Chellaney in the Times of India has noted.
According to Chellaney, India does not have a single dam measuring even one-third of Bunji in power generation capacity. The total installed hydropower capacity in India’s part of the state does not equal even Diamer-Bhasha, the smaller of the two dams.
The two dams are part of Pakistan’s North Indus River Cascade, which involves construction of five big water reservoirs with an estimated cost of $50 billion. These dams, together, will have the potential of generating approximately 40,000MW of hydroelectricity. Under the MoU, China’s National Energy Administration would oversee the financing and funding of these projects.
Rain showers Tharis with food security
The current rain spells have changed the landscape of Thar Desert, filling natural water ponds and recharging underground water in the entire Tharparkar and parts of Umerkot districts.
People expect several wild fruits and vegetables to bloom in the coming weeks, which would improve food security in the Tharparkar district. Mushrooms and other wild leafy vegetables have already started flooding the local markets, creating hope for the people, who were in need of rich nutrient food at their doorsteps.
Muhammad Siddiq, leading Rural Development Association (DRA), said, “These vegetables and fruits will benefit the desert people, mainly children and small babies, who presently need proper diet.”
He said many vegetables and fruits are expected to arrive in the markets within a few days, which would be easily accessible for all the people. Siddiq said round gourd (tinda) would arrive in the market after 20 days, melon family fruits in 30-days while green watermelon, mostly cooked as a vegetable, would be brought to the local bazaars in 45-days.
He works in the fields of water management and indigenous tree plantation, and also motivates the local communities to establish kitchen gardens in the desert villages. Siddiq has knowledge about the traditional practices in the desert, especially regarding pre and post rain harvest.
“Rain is a blessing for the desert people after a long dry spell which depleted plants and trees, and degraded the water sources of the region,” he said.
Thar Desert has experienced the worst situation for two consecutive years in terms of food security, unsafe water sources, malnutrition among children, and frequent reports of deaths of newborn babies in scattered areas. Doctors attributed these deaths of babies to the poor diet of mothers.
“After prolonged dryness, fear of shrinking water sources and drought-like situation, these rains have created hope for families, who can live safely,” Siddiq added.
Information gathered from different areas revealed that for now grasses were at a growing stage on sand dunes and plains. It was only benefitting small animals, goats, and sheep. Herders expect more grasses to grow in the following days, which would benefit all animals.
Local mushroom varieties, known for their delicious flavour, have flooded the local urban markets. However, due to lack of preservation technology and poor storage and processing mechanism, this well-known edible item has a very short shelf life, and large quantities often go to waste.
About the traditional process of fodder stocking for winter, local community elders said it depended on the rains. If the desert received five-seven showers within a few days, it would benefit farmers, who would be able to cultivate their lands to grow all the traditional crops and also grasses for livestock rearing.
Traditionally, people collected fodder after the rainy season ended and kept it in stock for using during winters. Currently, the grass stocks would be enough for the next three months. However, to make the stocks last till winter, the region should receive more heavy rains as per the communities, so they could have access to sufficient food and fodder.
The desert communities mostly depend on rain-fed farming and livestock rearing. Thar has around six million livestock population. They call this timely rain a blessing and believe it would benefit all the people, water sources, lands, and livestock. Umerkot livestock deputy director Dr Ganesh Kumar Khatri in his updates warned herders to be careful, and said it was common for small and weak animals to fall prey to certain viral infections during this season. Apart from viral infections, eating harmful and alien grasses or drinking stagnant water could also cause problems for animals.
STRATEGIC SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF GROUNDWATER
IN THAR DESERT OF PAKISTAN
An integrated research study, based on geoelectric
scanning, drilling and seismic-data
analyses, has been carried out to delineate
subsurface hydro-geological conditions beneath
the Thar Desert. Regional gradient maps of
surface elevation, top of subsurface Oxidized
Zone, top of coal-bearing formation(s) and the
deeply buried basement have been prepared,
covering almost the whole of Thar Desert. These
gradient maps, analyzed in conjunction with the
annual rainfall data, reveal the existence of
encouraging subsurface hydrogeological
conditions, associated with the sedimentary
sequences and the basement. From the results of
the study, it is observed that perch water aquifers,
commonly being utilized throughout the Thar, are
present at the bottom of the dunesand-zone, with
fluctuating yield controlled by the annual rainfall
cycles. At places, vertical electric-soundings
indicate good prospects for the better water,
associated with the basement complex. The
strategic development of groundwater, based on
scientific exploration and exploitation, from the
deep sedimentary and basement aquifers, can dedesertify
the Thar, accelerating the socioeconomic
stability of the people of the region.
Blessings and bane that come with rain
Zulfiqar Kunbhar September 3, 2017
Sindh’s Thar Desert has witnessed severe drought in the past four years. The long dry spell caused acute shortage — of food for humans, fodder for livestock and water for wildlife. During this worst drought in the recent history, hundreds of infants have died of malnutrition. The famine like situation has killed not just livestock, an important source of livelihood, but also wild species.
But the recent monsoon rains had a magical effect on the desert which has turned green from brown, promising good times ahead not just for humans but wildlife as well.
At the same time poaching and trafficking of baby wild animals including peafowl, deer, partridge and wild rabbit in the region is picking up. Thar Desert is home to around 300 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Prolonged drought had impacted the economy, society and environment of Thar Desert. Natural water ponds (locally known as Tarae) dried up and ground water level deepened, affecting all forms of life. There was no cultivation. Green pastures, which are the main source of food for livestock and wildlife, had depleted. Locals would spend most of their time in search of food and water. In the drought years, almost half of the total population of locals migrated along with their cattle to the neighbouring barrage areas in search of food. So did the wildlife species.
Although last year there were some rains in the desert they were not on time, hence not beneficial for locals as they could not cultivate crop due to delayed rains. Also, there was no greenery.
This year monsoon arrived on time. The desert received the first rain in the beginning of July that continued for several days, restoring the beauty of the desert.
Rain has provided the much-awaited relief to the living beings and natural habitat. Thar Desert is recovering from the bad impacts of drought. Wetter Thar means greenery and pastures all around as this part is considered the most fertile desert. There is greenery on vast areas of sand dunes locally called ‘Bhit’. That also means better food supply to flora and fauna of the area.
Much of Thar Desert’s portion lies in Tharparkar district of Sindh, stretching over 22,000 square kilometres. 300 kilometres east of Karachi, along Indian border, it has faced persistent but periodic droughts for the past several decades.
PM to inaugurate Kachhi canal project today
DERA BUGTI: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will be paying a one day visit to Dera Bugti’s Sui area to inaugurate the Kachhi canal project on Thursday. He will also be addressing the gathering at the inauguration ceremony.
The pm will be accompanied by Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Home Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti and other leaders who are also expected to address the gathering.
In consideration of the occasion, a local holiday has been declared in the district of Dera Bugti today.
Kachhi canal project is of strategic importance for the development of irrigated agriculture in Balochistan. The total estimated cost of the project is around Rs80 billion. The 363km long main canal (of which 351km is lined canal) stretches from Taunsa Barrage in Muzaffargarh to Dera Bugti district.
India's river-linking project will be disastrous: Water man Rajendra Singh
For the ‘Water man of India’ Rajendra Singh, who turned around life in the arid regions of Rajasthan with his inventive water conservation techniques involving the local communities, the steps taken by the Modi government in this sector have been disheartening. Prime among his concerns is the strong push by the government towards interlinking India’s rivers.
“This will be disastrous for my country. It will displace a lot of people and cause undesirable effects, with floods on one side and drought on the other. Rivers are not like roads. They have own gene pool and own life. What we need is the linking of our heart and brain with the river. This involves conservation projects involving the local communities. Linking of rivers will lead to privatisation of water resources,” he says. He was talking to The Hindu during his visit to the city to participate in a seminar on the revival of the Bharathapuzha on Tuesday.
Back in 2002, when the previous BJP government mooted the idea, he was the first one to study its after-effects, by travelling across the country to all rivers proposed to be linked. When the UPA government came, he presented his impact studies and the project was shelved, only to be revived under the Modi government.
“I have been a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority from 2009. When the new government came, I was removed from it. They do not listen to the concerns we raise. No dissent is allowed under the Modi government,” says Mr. Singh.
Growing up in a Zamindari family in Uttar Pradesh, discussions with his teachers and farmers contributed to his understanding of life around him.
“But my father never gave me any liberty. When I completed my education, I joined government service and my father got me married. Three years went by and in 1984, when my wife went home to give birth to my son, I quit my job, caught a bus from Jaipur and took a ticket to the last stop.”
He landed in Kishori village, near Gopalpura, where he set up a small clinic. But, 72-year-old Mangu Meena, an elder of that village, told him that the village needs water, more than education and medicine.
“He showed me underground aquifers inside wells and taught me the methods to recharge such aquifers.”
He built water banks on the earth and check-dams to hold back water in the wet season, to recharge groundwater and thus retaining the water even in summer. He involved the communities living along these rivers, making them owners of the resources. Three decades later, the model has spread across Rajasthan and elsewhere, creating villages with surplus water even in summer. In 2001, he won the Magsaysay Award for community leadership. Earlier this year, he won the ‘Stockholm Water Prize’, known as the Nobel Prize for Water.
Aquifer recharge dams in Texas
Water enters the Aquifer easily in the Recharge Zone, but the subsurface drainage is generally inadequate to hold all the water that falls in large rain events. Recharge conduits and sinkholes quickly become filled and the remaining water has to flow over the surface and on past the Recharge Zone. So the idea behind recharge dams is that by stopping water and retaining it behind structures, more can be forced to go into the Aquifer. Some of it could be made available for production from wells while the remainder would help sustain flows at Comal and San Marcos Springs above levels that are critical for maintaining endangered species habitats.
In the 1960s and 70s, there was a rash of dam building for flood control purposes, and many of them had the side effect of also increasing recharge (see article below).
Between 1990 and 1998, six studies were completed that analyzed the potential for enhanced recharge using dams (HDR, 1991-1998). There are two types of recharge dams that have been proposed and considered, known as Type I and Type II dams.
Type I dams would be constructed on the creeks and rivers of the Edwards Plateau, the catchment area for the Aquifer, where they would catch storm runoff and release it slowly toward the Recharge Zone. Several studies have determined that Type I dams would have to be very large and expensive and would inundate large areas during rainy times and leave large mud-crusted areas during dry times, so authorities consider them generally not feasible. For example, there is a site with good potential to recharge large amounts of water, but it would have the unfortunate side effect of periodically inundating Garner State Park.
Type II dams would be constructed on the Recharge Zone itself and would stop water as it runs off the plateau, allowing more time for it to go into the ground. Some of the best sites for Type II dams already have dams on them, such as the Medina Lakeand Diversion Lake system, which are estimated to contribute about 37,000 acre-feet per year to recharge (Slattery and Miller, 2004).
Thar desert can be made lush green with saline water’
Thar Desert can easily be converted into lush green grassland if it is irrigated with saline water, say researchers.
According to details, researchers at Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization, University of Karachi have successfully developed a cropping system that can turn barren saline lands into sustainable croplands mainly for animal fodder and other important by-products like medicines and bio-fuels.
The fodder grass is a perennial sown once and can be continually harvested to about 63,000 kg per hectare per year without reseeding. ISHU inked a MoU with SECMC, for developing model cash crop cultivation farms in Thar Desert to grow green fodder on experimental basis.
Utilising brackish water in Thar will reduce pressure on fertile lands and sweet water resources. The crops were being watered by underground saline water pumped from a level of 180 metres from the pen-pit coal mine. Plantation of the fodder plant has been successfully started near Green Park at Thar Block II.
Thar is the largest desert of Pakistan and 9th Largest Desert Of the world. It is situated in the province of Sindh. The Thar area has a tropical desert climate. The rains play a vital role in the life of all parts of Thar because the underground water is rarely found in Thar desert. Most of the underground water is saline and undrinkable sometimes sweet water comes out of a very deeply dug well.
Director ISHU Prof Dr Bilquees Gul said that this bio-saline agriculture project with SECMC will play a vital role to take care of the local communities of Tharparker and nearby areas. She added that beyond traditional horticulture and agriculture, halophytes – salt-loving plant species – are cultivated in saltwater. These hardy plants, often already well adapted to desert conditions, are highly promising sources of fodder and bio energy feed stocks that can thrive in highly saline environments.
ISHU, KU team has been offered a land, near Green Park at Thar Block II. SECMC team shall provide water, land levelling tools, equipment shed and other items to start formal growing plants, she added.
Director ISHU said that proposed species of fodder can survive in local climate conditions. We have made significant progress in research on this subject and believe that if properly implemented, it could contribute significantly in rehabilitating saline land and providing fodder to arid areas like Thar have plenty of saline water resources.
The communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities, she said. Tests on animals have shown no harmful effects and there was no problem convincing people to use it as fodder,” she said, adding that good management was required to grow the grass, which was probably the best fodder grass for the sub-tropical regions of the world as it can grow from coastal regions to inland regions. Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan has congratulated the researchers of ISHU for the research and said that the communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities.
What has changed in Thar? Not much
What is unfolding in Tharparkar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. But the PPP-led provincial government has underplayed the crisis.
On paper, there are in total 390 health facilities in Thar, small and big, of which 288 are up and running – as 46 are under construction and 56 need to hire staff.
But on the ground, those figures are greatly exaggerated. At least 40 percent of these facilities are out of order, estimate residents Geo.tv spoke to.
Even if the building is there, enough doctors, nurses and medical practitioners are not available. The provincial government has yet to hire doctors to fill the 332 vacant posts in the district.
Health problems are further compounded by lack of water and other basic facilities.
Thar does not have a working irrigation system. People here are dependent on rainwater for drinking and other needs. Then, the prolonged season of dry weather, and less than normal rain, ravages the crops and food supply in the desert.
In 2016, in the drought-affected Thar, 479 children died due to malnutrition, according to the health department.
This year, in just the first three months, 82 children have already lost their lives. This data has been collected from the government hospitals. Local health experts insist that death in the far-flung areas of the district go unreported.
The figures of mortality are alarming. What is unfolding in Thar has all the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet, the provincial government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, has underplayed the crises.
Officials have stopped providing media with updated figures of the death toll. In the past five months, the information flowing out of the district has been blocked.
Recently, Dr. Sikandar Ali Mandhro, Sindh’s Minister for Health, visited the area. When asked by a local journalist about the number of children who died this year, he was quoted as saying, “Children can die anywhere. Why does the media not report the children dying in other parts of Sindh, such as Badin or Hyderabad, why is it focused on Thar?”
He further asked reporters to compare the mortality rate to world figures, “The number in Thar is not so extraordinary.”
Mol Ram is a resident of the village Hilario in the desert. He is disappointed with the parliamentarians his people elected.
“They [the PPP] made many promises in 2013, but since then, since the polling day, we have barely seen them. Does only our vote matter?”
As rains grow erratic, Pakistan taps irrigation to protect Punjab crops
System aims to capture floodwater and monsoon runoff to boost food production in climate change-hit region
LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Most of Tajammul Abbas's 17 acres of farmland produces nothing but fodder for his buffalo and three goats. His land, and that around him in Punjab province, depends on rain to grow crops and rainfall has become much more uncertain as climate change takes hold, leading to lost harvests.
But things are now looking more promising for him and for about 384,000 other people living in the Pind Dadan Khan-Khushab area, three hours drive from Lahore, Punjab's capital, after the government on Friday announced plans to build an irrigation system for the area.
The effort is expected to convert 68,000 hectares of minimally productive farmland to full production, using water from the Jhelum River.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday approved a $275 million loan for the project, which is supported by the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), a government agency that oversees water sharing between provinces.
"Having a sufficient and effective irrigation system is fundamental in the development of Pakistan's agriculture sector, a significant driver of the country's economy," said Ryutaro Takaku, a water specialist at the bank's Central and West Asia Department.
The project "will help increase agricultural production and improve food security in Pakistan", he noted in a press release.
Officials said the irrigation project will involve building a 117-kilometre canal to carry water diverted from the Jhelum River, 97 kilometres of secondary canals, and a range of other structures – some of which may require those now living on the land to relocate.
The system aims to catch floodwater and monsoon runoff at heavy rainfall times of the year and channel it into the irrigation network.
"There are about 128 structures that would need to be dismantled and land will have to be bought from people for the irrigation system. But there is no other option," said Muhammad Javed Iqbal Goraya, a water expert with South Asian Conservation Network, a non-governmental organization.
In an area with poor rainfall, "irrigation (is) essential for crop production. The irrigation network will help the farmers in the area to adapt to climate changes and have more crops," he said.
The area, if irrigated, could grow wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, maize, and other crops, said Goraya.
The project will introduce advanced technologies such as laser land leveling and high-efficiency irrigation, according to the ADB press release. About 6,000 farmers also will have the opportunity to learn climate-smart agriculture practices and more profitable farm management, the release said.
Goraya said that managing the new water resource and existing water with care will be key to ensuring the sustainability of agriculture in the area.
The project envisions 485 water user associations being formed to have a say in planning, designing and constructing the new irrigation system.
"Such associations and committees have been very helpful in some other areas of the country in managing watercourses and collecting water charges from users," Goraya said.
Rainwater harvesting in Thar
Mohammad Hussain KhanDecember 04, 2017
The Sindh Small Dams Organisation of the provincial irrigation department has been building recharge and storage dams across the province. So far, 44 small dams have been completed and 30 are under construction to irrigate around 155,000 acres of land. In all, 70 recharge and four storage dams are to be built by the organisation.
“If a dam in our village [Chanida] is filled like the Ranpur [dam], we can cultivate the onion crop on 200 acres,” Eidal Kumar tells this writer at the dam’s site in Nagarparkar. “Whatever water is currently available [in the Chanida dam] is used by livestock,” he adds.
Recently, the multibillion-rupee Sindh Resilience Project was launched under which three small dams in Nagarparkar and 12 in Kohistan belt are to be built.
The World Bank-funded project aims to mitigate flood and drought risks in selected areas and strengthen Sindh’s capacity to manage natural disasters. The Sindh government would share 20pc cost of the project.
Of the Rs10bn cost, 80pc would be spent on small dams and 10 main river Indus’ dykes which needed refurbishment after recent floods.
The accumulation of rainwater replenishes/recharges groundwater aquifers and then water is lifted through pumps by growers for rearing animals and cultivating crops.
The sandy soil of Thar absorbs water quickly, but water table in groundwater aquifers around such dams gets improved considerably.
“At some sites [of dams], groundwater level is recorded at 20 feet which was 100 feet before it rained in that area,” says Zahid Sheikh, an irrigation officer who was looking after small dams’ construction until recently.
Besides recharge or storage dams, spate irrigation is another technique applied in areas located on the right bank of the Indus river such as Jamshoro, Dadu, Qambar-Shahdadkot and districts like Thatta, Khairpur and Malir.
According to an old study conducted by the National Engineering Services of Pakistan, around 1.4 million acres could be brought under spate irrigation for cropping in Sindh, which has such 33 sites for water conservation of hill torrents. Small farmers of these areas have remained dependent on hill torrents during Kharif crops.
Ashfaq Soomro of Research and Development Foundation said according to their study, improved structures of ponds can serve to reduce seepage and evaporation losses.
Unfortunately, Sindh has not carried out a geographical study to develop comprehensive data set for a planned effective intervention. “Generally, communities in such difficult areas are left to deal with problems on their own,” commented an expert.
Ahmad Zeeshan Bhatti of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources says a detailed mapping of Tharparkar is needed for determining potential sites to build rainwater harvesting. Since Thar’s soil is sandy, it increases the seepage ratio. Road catchment could be built to accelerate the pace of rainwater’s runoff after a cost analysis.
India has installed solar panels in water bodies to block sunlight that otherwise accelerates the pace of evaporation. The wind velocity could be controlled by raising hedges around dams, he said.
A proposal for mapping entire arid region was submitted to the federal government after hundreds of newborns died in Tharparkar in 2014 owing to malnourishment. The file has been gathering dust since then.
#Pakistan invests $4.5 billion in Thar desert development in #Sindh
The Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair has said that the investment to the tune of dollars 4.5 billion in Thar is something very significant.
He was expressing his views at an interactive session on energy held at the Governor House here on Friday.
The Governor referred to the Thar coal reserves containing 175 billion tons and said that these would help meet country energy needs for a long time to come.
The coal would not only be used for the generation of energy but would also be for provision of basic needs to the residents of the area.
Zubair said that for the betterment of infrastructure 250- bed hospital as well as schools are also being built.
The government is taking every step so that the people of Thar could benefit from the natural resources of the area.
The Governor assured that the federal government would extend every cooperation for the welfare and betterment of the people of Thar.
He informed that generation of power from Thar coal would commence from the year 2019 and this will contribute towards prosperity in the area.
Zubair said that new avenues of development would also open in Thar.
The Chief Executive Officer of Sindh Engro Coal Mine, Shamsuddin Shaikh, said on the occasion that 76 percent of jobs in Thar have been provided to the local people.
He said that the time period of the project span over 42 months but it would be completed in 36 months.
He said that first phase of the project would be executed in 2019.
The company, he added, would also adopt all the schools in Thar.
The company required 500 drivers and intermediate pass youngsters were provided training and appointed as driver with the company at the monthly salary of Rs. 30,000.
Sindh’s southeastern districts on the coastal belt, Badin, Thatta, Tharparkar and Sujawal will likely to receive heavy rainfall during the rainy spell, according to the weather forecast.
Seasonal low lies over western Balochistan. Moderate moist currents from Arabian Sea are penetrating upper and central parts of the country, weather department said.
Widespread rain-thundershower or windstorm with isolated heavy falls is expected today in Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Lahore divisions, Islamabad and Kashmir, while at isolated places in Malakand, Mardan, D.I.Khan, Zhob, Faisalabad, D.G.Khan, Multan, Sahiwal, Bahawalpur, Kalat, Sukkur and Larkana divisions.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday, Balakot received 23 mm rainfall, Cherat 22, Parachinar 05, Malamjabba 01,in Balochistan Barkhan received 17 mm rainfall, Zhob 13, Sibbi 07, Khuzdar 06, in Sindh Jaccobabad received 10 fall, while in Punjab Rahim Yar Khan 07, Rawalpindi 05, Bahawalnager 03, Chakwal 02 and Attock 01 received showers.
#Thar #desert blooms in #Pakistan after #Monsoon2019. Farmers are tilling their land, planting seeds, and for first time in years, expecting a good harvest. Transformation of is attracting tourists to marvel at grass-lined roads in #Sindh | The Third Pole https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2019/09/13/the-thar-desert-blooms-in-pakistan/
Located in in the south of Pakistan’s Sindh province, bordering India to the east, the Thar desert is home to many varieties of indigenous trees, herbs, and grasses. It is the latter that provides feed for more than 6 million livestock.
One and a half month ago, heavy winds accompanied by soaring temperature hit the region. People migrated towards the barrage areas more than 200 kilometres away with their cattle. Now all that has changed. In the deep desert dunes have been covered by a greenish coverlet, trees have doubled & tripled their leaves, and the grass is growing with unrestrained enthusiasm.
Mr Khaku, who lives in the village of Dhorio, was weeding out grass from his land. He was thankful for the rain, and said that he had invested PKR 20,000 (USD 128) on his land, and intended to work for the next three months until the harvest in the last week of November. His family – he has seven children – seemed to be as enthusiastic as he was, working from sunrise to sunset. Every family member plays a role in cultivating the desert land.
When drought hits the people and animals face an acute shortage of fodder and cereal crops, as well as water scarcity. These lead to premature births among livestock, and the malnutrition rate increases among children under 5 years of age. Pregnant and lactating women do not get their proper amount of food. People are forced to migrate towards the areas where barrages have been built to find fodder and water for their cattle.
This year may be a year of hope, but nothing is certain, warned Bharumal Amrani, a folklorist and environmental expert. “Nothing can be said finally until the harvest. This time Thar has received enough rains, but there are other climatic challenges that may cause low yield.” Recent attacks by grasshoppers are an issue, and have the potential to cause a huge loss.
Local farmers like Nehal, though, are optimistic. He had been taking on labour work during the lean period to manage household expenses. But, after the rains, his family has returned to the land.
“I invested PKR 30,000 (USD 192) last year, but due to rainfall, we got only fodder for two months and couldn’t manage to return the loan payment. This year we welcomed a good shower, and hope this would give us a way to fulfil household needs until the next rains,” he said.
Despite the amount of rain, there is an issue about their timing. “Due to climate change there has been a in the monsoon, the desert received the first spell of rain almost a month late, and that may badly affect the harvest,” said Aakash Hamirani, a youth activist. Nevertheless the people are happy, blessing their fortune this year, and hoping it marks a change from the last few years of lean rainfall.
Tending orchards in Thar desert — without flowing water
A farmer is using clay pitchers to irrigate his orchard and crops, using 70 per cent less water than conventional methods.
Most of the inhabitants of the Thar desert can grow crops only after a downpour has transformed the arid land into lush greenery. But Allahrakhio Khoso, a 60-year-old farmer, does not need to wait for rain.
In the city of Nagarparkar, in the shadow of the Karoonjhar mountains, Khoso has made an orchard in the desert a reality by using matkas or pitchers — an everyday object more commonly found in the home than in the field.
After eight years, Khoso has 400 berry trees, 70 lemon trees, three mango trees and four pomegranate trees. He grows vegetables such as okra, bitter melon, onions, chilies and tinda (a type of squash), as well as watermelon, on his land in the district of Tharparkar.
Khoso can grow berries, lemons, mangoes, pomegranates, watermelon and vegetables. — Photo by Zulfiqar Khoso
In pitcher irrigation, a large clay pot with a wide bottom and narrow top is buried in the ground and filled with water. The water is slowly released into the surrounding soil and absorbed by the roots of nearby plants, minimising the amount of precious liquid lost to evaporation.
In pitcher irrigation, a large clay pot is buried in the ground near a plant and filled with water. — Photo by Zulfiqar Khoso
Water in the desert
Rich in coal but poor in water, Thar is the largest desert zone in the province of Sindh. Its residents depend on rainfall; most people fetch their daily water from wells and store rainwater in water tanks. In summer, many wells run dry and groundwater becomes brackish.
To this day, some wells are dug without modern machinery. Recently four workers dieddigging a well when the walls fell in on them.
Water is so important a commodity that it even features in marriage negotiations; before a proposal is accepted, the parents of a bride will ask the groom’s family how close the nearest well is. In greetings, people also ask about sweet water wells.
Nevertheless, living in the desert does not mean thirst and poverty are inevitable.
How does pitcher irrigation work?
"Many years back, one of my friends came to visit our village and he discussed pitcher irrigation," said Khoso. "I got the idea and started working on it. In the beginning, it was quite hard but now it looks very simple. I thought that if I could make my farm green without rainwater, then I should go for it."
Khoso has made an orchard in the desert a reality. — Photo by Zulfiqar Khoso
To install a new pitcher, Khoso first makes a small hole in the bottom of a pitcher. He puts a rope through the hole, then buries the pitcher, packing mud and sand tightly around it. This leaves only the mouth of the pitcher exposed, which Khoso fills with water. The water seeps through the porous clay and soaks through the rope into the sand, where it is absorbed by the roots of the crops he has planted close by. As well as natural fertilisers, Khoso uses mud from Virawah, a city near Nagarparkar where there is an ancient lake.
Each pitcher is two to three feet wide and holds 10 litres of water, which will irrigate the soil for 15 to 20 days. New pitchers are better for irrigation because they are more porous and, once in place, will last three years. Khoso fetches water roughly every 10 days — there is a well on his farm, and another nearby.
For trees, Khoso uses one pitcher per plant; sometimes two pitchers for mango trees, planting trees 25 feet (7.6 metres) apart. The amount of water needed depends on the crop, with trees requiring more pitchers. Khoso now has 400 pitchers irrigating his orchard.
#Drought Hits #US Southwest & #NewMexico’s Canals Run Dry. Acequias — pronounced ah-SEH-kee-ahs — borrow their name from the #Arabic term for #water conduit, al-sāqiya, celebrated in song, books and verse, and they have endured in the state for centuries. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/13/us/acequias-drought-new-mexico-southwest.html?smid=tw-share
Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the remote village of Ledoux has for more than a century relied on a network of irrigation ditches to water its crops. The outpost’s acequias, as New Mexico’s fabled canals are known, are replenished annually by snowmelt and rains. But with the Southwest locked in an unrelenting drought, they have begun to run dry.
“I never thought I’d witness such a crash in our water sources,” said Harold Trujillo, 71, a farmer in Ledoux who has seen his production of hay collapse to about 300 bales a year from 6,000. “I look at the mountains around us and ask: ‘Where’s the snow? Where are the rains?’”
Acequias — pronounced ah-SEH-kee-ahs — borrow their name from the Arabic term for water conduit, al-sāqiya. They are celebrated in song, books and verse, and they have endured in the state for centuries. Spanish colonists in New Mexico began digging the canals in the 1600s, building on water harvesting techniques honed by the Pueblo Indians.
Even then, the acequia reflected the blending of cultural traditions. Muslims introduced acequias in Spain after invading the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century, using gravity to manage irrigation flows. Acequias eventually spread around the Spanish-speaking world.
Making subsistence farming feasible in arid lands, New Mexico’s communally managed acequias persisted through uprisings, epidemics and wars of territorial conquest, preserving a form of small-scale democratic governance that took root before the United States existed as a country.
But in a sign of how climate change has begun to upend farming traditions across the Southwest, the megadrought afflicting New Mexico and neighboring states may amount to the acequias’ biggest challenge yet.
The difficulties confronting farmers in Ledoux — pronounced locally as Leh-DOOKS — exemplify those also facing hundreds of acequias around New Mexico, and a smaller number in southern Colorado and Texas.
Climate researchers say that the water shortages vexing the acequias are not surprising after years of warming temperatures, and that the depleted reservoirs and the spread of colossal wildfires around the West are a clear indication of the crisis.
A century of groundwater accumulation in Pakistan and northwest India
The groundwater systems of northwest India and central Pakistan are among the most heavily exploited in the world. However, recent, and well-documented, groundwater depletion has not been historically contextualized. Here, using a long-term observation-well dataset, we present a regional analysis of post-monsoon groundwater levels from 1900 to 2010. We show that human activity in the early twentieth century increased groundwater availability before large-scale exploitation began in the late twentieth century. Net groundwater accumulation in the twentieth century, calculated in areas with sufficient data, was at least 420 km3 at ~3.6 cm yr–1. The development of the region’s vast irrigation canal network, which increased groundwater recharge, played a defining role in twentieth-century groundwater accumulation. Between 1970 and 2000, groundwater levels stabilized because of the contrasting effects of above-average rainfall and the onset of tubewell development for irrigation. Due to a combination of low rainfall and increased tubewell development, approximately 70 km3 of groundwater was lost at ~2.8 cm yr–1 in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Our results demonstrate how human and climatic drivers have combined to drive historical groundwater trends.
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved $200 million in financing to support Pakistan in transforming the agricultural sector by adopting climate-smart technologies to improve water-use efficiency, build resilience to extreme weather events and increase incomes of small farmers.
The agricultural sector in Punjab is central to the Pakistan’s economy and food security as it accounts for 73 percent of the country’s total food production. The Punjab Resilient and Inclusive Agriculture Transformation Project (PRIAT) will increase agricultural productivity through efficient and equitable access to water for small farms. It will support farmers at the community and household levels to adopt climate-smart farming practices and technologies that improve crop yields and conserve water resources in Punjab.
“In recent years Pakistan’s agriculture sector has suffered from losses in crop yields and livestock, damage to irrigation infrastructure, and food shortages due to climate change, particularly severe droughts in the Punjab province,” said Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “This project aligns with the Punjab Agriculture Policy 2018, which promotes massive expansion of water conservation efforts, enhancing sustainability and resilience in the wake of climate change, and private sector participation to help boost the productivity of the sector.”
PRIAT will support farmers implement innovative, climate-smart technologies to help the Punjab government achieve economies of scale to transform the agricultural sector. The project will engage the private sector in sourcing appropriate technologies and providing training tailored for water user associations and individual households to improve water conservation practices and agriculture productivity.
“The agriculture sector has a huge opportunity to both build climate resilience and improve economic conditions by generating access to domestic and international markets,” said Guo Li, Task Team Leader for the project. “PRIAT will help accelerate the government’s efforts to transform the agri-food system through market-oriented production activities that add value, increase competitiveness and generate higher incomes for farmers.”
The project will benefit about 190,000 small, family-owned farms and 1.4 million acres of irrigated land in rural communities in the province. It will also provide training to small- and medium-sized farm owners on water conservation and more sustainable, climate-resilient agricultural practices, including for women. About 74 percent of women in the province rely on agriculture as a source of livelihood.
The World Bank in Pakistan
Pakistan has been a member of the World Bank since 1950. Since then, the World Bank has provided $40 billion in assistance. The World Bank’s program in Pakistan is governed by the Country Partnership Strategy for FY2015-2020 with four priority areas of engagement: energy, private sector development, inclusion, and service delivery. The current portfolio has 60 projects and a total commitment of $14.2 billion.
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