Drought and Desertification in Tharparkar

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Long-term planning aimed at the un-interrupted supply of both drinking and irrigation water is seriously needed. We must realize that sweet water condition in Tharparkar is worst and access to water is a key problem for the district of Tharparkar, which comprises an area of 22,000 sq. km. More than 1.4 million people and about five million heads of livestock live in the area, where annual rainfall averages can be as low as 9mm and drought is common.

By Fawad Shaikh

Water is a miracle molecule. It constitutes 70 to 90 per cent of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic and provides an aqueous atmosphere for biological activities that a cell is required to carry out. This precious molecule has diversified properties and is considered an essential biomolecule for living organisms, hence for life.

Industrialization in past 100 years has changed the natural status of this biosphere/ecosphere commonly called earth. Depletion in the Ozone layer, production of CFC gasses, and deforestation are the main caused of climate change.

Least is realized at mass level abut drastic climate change. Those who are aware can just participate in TV shows, can draft articles in newspapers and magazines for getting name and fame, but the practical approach is yet to be seen.

The increase in drought is caused by many factors: shortfalls in precipitation, early snow-melt, a shift away from light and moderate rains towards short, heavy precipitation events, and increased evaporation due to higher temperatures, all of which have been driven in part by climate change.

Several ways change the climate and contribute to drought. Warmer temperatures can enhance evaporation from the soil, making periods with low precipitation drier they would be in cooler conditions. Droughts can persist through “positive feedback,” where very dry soils and diminished plant cover can further suppress rainfall in an already dry area. A changing climate can also alter atmospheric rivers.

There are various reasons causing drought, but the main reason includes low rain or no rain for a certain period. The severity of the drought depends on duration during which the area does not receive water from any source particularly rain.

Drought has diversified effects. In terms of agriculture, droughts affect livestock and crops, including corn, soybeans, and wheat. In Tharparkar, Gawar and barley are the most affected crops. This badly affects the livelihood of poor masses and their livestock suffers the most. With enough water, the people of Tharparkar live a happy life and the production potential of their livestock multiplies.

Drought may be due to natural abiotic factors however, it may be due to the resultant effects of human activities such as deforestation, overgrazing and poor cropping methods, which reduce water retention of the soil, and improper soil conservation techniques, which lead to soil degradation. Besides, agriculture is badly hit, livelihoods and incomes are greatly reduced and food consumption touches the bottom making masses for migration. Health and nutrition become town talk.

In this situation, long-term planning aimed at the un-interrupted supply of both drinking and irrigation water is seriously need. We must realize that sweet water condition in Tharparkar is worst and access to water is a key problem for the district of Tharparkar, which comprises an area of 22,000 sq. km. More than 1.4 million people and about five million heads of livestock live in the area, where annual rainfall averages can be as low as 9mm, and drought is common.

Available data suggest that only 5 per cent of the population has access to a sweet water supply. Even the district capital, Mithi town gets sweet water twice a month. The sitting government with public-private partnership has embarked upon project aimed at supplying drinking water, but most of the RO plants have operational issues. Government investment in 750 expensive water treatment plants won’t solve drinking water problems for people in the drought-prone Thar desert. Experts argue for the construction of canals and rain ponds instead. Hence there is a need to address the issue on a priority basis keeping construction of a canal on the top.

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The writer is under graduate student in Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam

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