Thar, the largest desert of Pakistan, is situated in the south-east and forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. It’s considered the world’s 9th largest hot subtropical desert and houses some 1.6 million people. Where precipitation is limited to 100 to 500mm per year, it’s hard to imagine that livestock and agriculture is the primary source of income for the locals. It’s easy to comprehend why drought and famine are frequent occurrences in the region. Time and again, cattle and humans have to make do with a shortage of food and water. Death habitually haunts the region, taking the lives of many each year. According to Dawndrought killed over 500 children in Thar in 2018.
According to WHO, GAM (Global Acute Malnutrition) rate of more than 15% among children if considered an emergency. As of 2011, GAM in Thar was estimated to be 22.7% while chronic malnutrition was as high as 45.9%. It’s easy to pinpoint the source of these problems – extreme water shortage. Governments have announced schemes to improve water availability for the people of Thar several times, but the country has yet to see a practical project put into action in the dry region. In 2015, the Sindh government announced a project under which 700 Reverse Osmosis water purification plantswere to be installed in Thar, out of which only 400 plants are put in place as of yet. Out of those 400 that exist, less than 30% are functional.
While the Rajasthani side of the Thar desert, located in India, is provided with water by the Indira Gandhi Canal, Pakistan’s side is also deprived of canal water. The Sindh government is planning to provide water to the Tharis through the Makhi-Farash canal, but this plan, too, has yet to materialize. In its current condition, Thar is nearly uninhabitable by humans and animals alike.
How, then, do the Tharis survive, or a percentage of them at least? Char Nore village, in Thar, has 4 to 5 wells for 200 householdsThe villagers spend 4 to 5 hours to fetch around 12 liters of water. Of course, there are also limitations on the amount of water a family can have since several families share each well. Water is more precious than gold for the villagers. It’s no wonder that they keep their water tanks padlocked to prevent water theft!
While many of us take this resource for granted, wasting liters of water while brushing teeth, there are those too who travel miles only to stand in an endless queue before they can carry water back for the family – and that too on their heads! Help Tayaba make life easier in the driest parts of the country. Whether it’s humans or animals, every living soul deserves a decent supply of clean, fresh water to live a healthy life. There is no life without water – it’s as simple as that. It’s about time that we realize that while we waste water carelessly, there are regions where people are dying for the resource – quite literally.
Written by: Maryam Ahmad