Climate change causes water scarcity, food insecurity in Tharparkar

Published On: Mon, Sep 21st, 2015

Abdul Hussain Nagri

MITHI, THARPARKAR, SINDH

Considering the precious resource of water, Tharparkar is considered to be one of the most sensitive and insecure areas in Asia. Residents have faced severe drought at least thrice in each decade since the 1960s. While meteorologists attribute this scarcity to global climate change, Pakistan ranks 16th on the list of countries facing severe environmental problems due to climate change.

After a gap of three years, Thar Desert experienced rain this monsoon but it was not enough to cover the damages done in the last three years.

According to Dinesh Mushawar, an official of Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) Tharparkar, insufficient amount of rain for the last three years, especially in the monsoon season has presented challenges for farmers.

“Change in climate and drought have damaged the crops, yielding no commercial or domestic crops for the farmers,” he says.

Although it rained more than 400mm this year, there was no pouring after July 28, adding to the looming dangers of water scarcity.

image: http://thenaturenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Illustration-English__1442779039_43.246.223.7-1024×607.jpg

Considering the precious resource of water, Tharparkar is considered to be one of the most sensitive and insecure areas in Asia
Considering the precious resource of water, Tharparkar is considered to be one of the most sensitive and insecure areas in Asia
The inhabitants of Thar obtain water by two means: rain and underground water wells. In a rather unique way of storing and distributing water, they build ponds to store water outside the house for domestic and agricultural use.

A less preferred way to obtain water is to dig water wells, which produces saltwater. This briny water is rich in Sodium Chloride and other minerals, and its stickiness is damaging to the human body. It also causes diseases, both in humans and in animals alike.

Hence, scarcity of water has forced both humans and animals to use the same sources of water, i.e. reservoirs and ponds.

Women and children, endangering their lives, walk more than five miles every day to get access to any kind of water source, as all kinds of wild predators are also on their way to find water. Incidents of rape have also been reported by women who make this arduous journey daily. 

To deal with the problem, the Government of Sindh installed as many as 750 solar energy-powered Reverse Osmosis Systems (ROS) to filter saltwater, making it fit for human consumption.

image: http://thenaturenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/DSC0211-1024×721.jpg

In Thar Desert, women and children, endangering their lives, walk more than five miles every day to get access to water source-Photo The Nature News
In Thar Desert, women and children, endangering their lives, walk more than five miles every day to get access to water source-Photo The Nature News
However, due to a lack of maintenance and administration, more than half of the ROS stopped working within a few months of installation.

Some of the affected villages, however, after receiving aid from national and international organisations were able to build water reservoirs on their own. These reservoirs collect rainwater, and are equipped with water filtration plants for providing a clean water source for the village folk. They also act as collecting units to fulfil the demand in times of scarcity. Yet, there are villages that are far from the reach of such organisations, forcing the residents to suffer.

“We earn money through agriculture and animal breeding. We grow cotton, grass, hay and vegetables to support ourselves and our animals. But for the last three years we have not been able to do that due to water shortage,” says Khet Singh, a resident of Haryaar area of Tharparkar.

“We have to constantly take loans to keep our households running. Once the drought is over, we will sell our crops and animals and payoff these loans. If the drought continues, it will burden us with more debt.”

It hasn’t rained since July, which indicates a drought has hit us again,” adds Singh.

“When there is insufficient rain, it forces us to look for hay, silage and grass in farther districts than ours. We travel distance of more than 200km to look for food for our cattle.”

He added that because of formation of new villages, there has been a population increase in Tharparkar. As a result, both humans and animals compete for same resources – a difficult situation.

Bahar-o-Mal, a welfare worker and meteorologist says constant drought in Tharparkar over the years has lowered the underground water level, leaving the land barren.

“The water table has subsided so low that even after the monsoon season this year, water could not fertile the ground.”

If it doesn’t rain anymore in the continuing year, there may be famine.

“Growth of seasonal vegetables is not possible now,” he says.

According to Sukaar Foundation’s survey on the percentages of food and water shortage in Thar, less than 72 percent of the people have adequate food saved up for one day, while only 19 percent have the resources to buy food for a week. Only 9 percent of the district’s population can afford to buy food for a month from their savings.

Similarly, the survey says, 63 percent of the people borrow money from friends, family, and feudal lords to keep their households running. Only 25 percent of the people have saved up to provide food for their animals, while 12 percent of them have cash to buy animal fodder from markets.

The foundation also revealed that 11 percent camels, 7 percent of cows, 22 percent of lambs and 9 percent of the district’s goats have expired in recent years due to ill nutrition, drought, harsh weather and lack of resources for medication.
image: http://thenaturenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Map-English__1442779085_43.246.223.7-1024×853.jpg

Read more at http://thenaturenews.com/2015/09/climate-change-causes-water-scarcity-food-insecurity-in-tharparkar/#dZzM7jhgQ0GZtP5d.99

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