Photo by News Lens Pakistan

UMERKOT:  Heavy dusty winds in Thar have not only affected the quality of the cultivable land but have also threatened the survival of human beings, birds and livestock.

An Environment Expert Dr Menhal Nohri told News Lens Pakistan that dusty winds affect everything from human beings to birds, water reservoirs, water table and livestock. He added that in dusty winds even a bird could not fly to look for food.  The dust-laden grass affects the digestive system of the livestock. Allergies, sore eyes, lung disease, asthma and tuberculosis are common in human beings.

Bharumal Amrani, representative of Society for the Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) says that the dusty winds ruin bushes and plants.  “In Sindhi we say, Warhia khare wao kare, (strong winds reduce soil’s fertility),” said Amrani while talking to News Lens Pakistan.

Wind erosion occurs when the topsoil, consisting of both soil and rocks, is blown away from the earth’s surface to another place by the high-speed wind.  Soil erosion entirely depends on the wind’s velocity. If the velocity of the wind is stronger than the cohesive and gravitational forces that keep the soil particles together, wind erosion occurs. Forestation has been nature’s way to control the velocity of the wind. When men cut down trees and remove other forms of vegetation, winds not only blow hard but also gain a free hand to remove the topsoil. It is topsoil where all the vital nutrients and organic matter lie. In the absence of this soil, land loses its ability to regenerate itself. Erosion also reduces water-holding capacity of the soil.  In other words, the land becomes infertile or barren.

Winds in Thar blow at an average speed of 15 knots, while the average erosion rate has been measured at four meter from 1950 to 2004, which is alarmingly high.

The Thar Desert has a total area of 22,000 sq km and a population of about 1800,000 — which is approximately half the population of the district and more than 70 per cent of its land area.

Thar is distinguished by low and erratic rainfall, humidity, high solar radiation, strong-dust rising winds, sparse vegetation and sand dune.  Desertification has already made this region unlivable for the Tharis who have migrated in hoards to other areas.

An elderly farmer Hameer from village Bhojrajyo recounts old times when there were enough trees and bushes to prevent the winds from overwhelming the land. Previously he says people considered chopping down trees a sin. They would worship trees because of which we had good amount of forests leaving a positive effect on our region.

Waryam, is finding hard time to ply his jeep from Umerkot to Ratnor. He told News Lens that his jeeps jolts in the dusty and heavy winds blowing in these areas. Now he uses Jeep only when it is really needed otherwise he says it is not possible to ply on these roads without pumping out extra petrol to force the jeep to propel.  High-velocity windstorms cause movement of sand dunes, depositing thick layers of sand on roads, railway tracks and croplands.

Geographer Sujomal Meghwar of the University of Sindh, agrees that dust storm cannot be stopped and could increase in velocity and occurrence because of climatic changes. However, he says, “With a few land management techniques, the process of desertification and wind erosion could be at least reduced if not reversed.”

He argues that growing more trees and vegetation, controlling deforestation, watching for overgrazing, keeping an eye on population growth and last but not least, managing drought are a few remedies to bring Thar back to life.

The Sub-Divisional Forest Officer Mirpurkhas Abid Hussain Jatoi assures that the government is not all lost on the issues confronting the Thar Desert. His department, he says, have been growing nurseries, planting trees on roadside and on canal.

The Rangeland Management Department, according to him, is also working hard to combat wind erosion by growing native plants and trees in Thar. On the other hand, another official from the forest department Attaullah Shaikh told the News Lens that the area lacks enough plant or trees to tackle wind erosion.

The ‎Executive Director at Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy, Ali Akbar Rahimoon told News Lens Pakistan that strong winds harmful for the ecology of Thar, can still be used to generate wind energy. Thar can use this alternative source of energy to run water pumps, tube wells and even to lighten its houses, he added.  Winds blowing at 9.1 m/s velocity, he says carry the potential to generate enough electricity for Thar.

The government has never been serious in improving the living conditions of the people of Thar. It is an irony that one of the former prime ministers of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz contested from Thar and won the National Assembly seat. Similarly, Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the sitting member of Sindh Assembly and former chief minister Sindh hails from Thar.

Not only the situation in Sindh deteriorated during the tenure of the aforementioned ministers, it also recorded new failures. The Sindh Arid Zone Development Authority had to be shut down in 2002 due to incompetence of the officials. This institution was built in 1985 to undertake development projects in the arid zones that comprise 48 percent Sindh and is mostly struck by consistent drought and famine. Only last year the drought in Thar killed more than 300 children, a question mark on the ability and performance of the subsequent Sindh governments.

In view of three consecutive droughts, the present Sindh government has decided to form Thar Development Authority. Unfortunately, the bill for the development of this new department is yet to be presented in the Sindh Assembly.

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Profile: Allah Bux Arisar was born on 1st January, 1977 in Village Haji Abdul Hakim Arisar of district Umerkot Sindh Pakistan which is an underprivileged, geo-physically remote, culturally isolated, socio economically deprived and drought hit area. He received most of his schooling and early college education in district Umerkot and later did graduation from Sindh University of Jamshoro. He is a media trainer, art promoter, social activist, .philanthropist, young leader, and public speaker. He has worked broadly with young people from diverse background. Allah Bux Arisar, with his pen name A.B. Arisar has been contributing his potential extensively in leading English and Urdu dallies and news channels of Pakistan. Currently he works with Dawn Newspaper and Dawn News Tv as its district correspondent based for Umerkot. The geographic standing of Umerkot falls adjoined to Indian border, therefore it has own distinction considering the conventional rivals. His reporting location has another important aspect as the area has equal population of Hindu and Muslims – approximately 1.2 million. Journalism Career He started his career in journalism in 2004 from “The Nation” , then he joined AAJ-TV-an Urdu Channel. In 2008 he joined Dawn media group and since then he is working with it. He has reported several events around the area such as human rights mainly minority rights, religion (interfaith harmony), violence against women and children, politics, health, education, history, culture etc. Along with journalism he has closely worked with multiple right-based organizations and raised the issues of marginalized people through organizing seminars, conferences, workshops, consultations and protest demonstrations. He has also been active in lobbying and advocacy on the issues of bonded labour, child abuse, and child labour, violence against women, minority rights and women rights. He also published stories regarding the plights of voiceless people in regular and social media. His reporting has jolted the concerned quarters and compelled them to address the particular issues. For example his story over killing of bonded laborers by landlord, got attention of authorities and accused was apprehended. For reference please follow below links Woman injured in landlord`s firing dies Main accused in triple murder surrenders He has also remained a member of different fact-finding committees on leading issues pertaining to bonded labourers, child rights violation, minority rights, women rights etc formed by SPARC, PILER, DDAT, Sami Foundation and different human rights organizations. For instance Thar peasants` murder: Fact-finding team casts doubt on investigation Currently he is a member of District Vigilance Committee on Bonded Labour government of Sindh, District Health vigilance committee district Umerkot too. Besides he has also been working to promote interfaith harmony, among Hindus, Muslims and Christians living in the district.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The picture which is placed against the story is not depicting the real picture of wind erosion. It would have been better if the wind erosion be replaced with this story as to reflect

  2. Expect even violent dust storms, tornadoes, hailstorm and land slides. I see same pattern in Thal and Cholistan. New dimensions of climate change. We need to upgrade our met for these new challenges. Marginalization of our deserts is real. Government policy should look at consequences for all types of life.

    • Agreed sir all these consequences can be caused because of climate change, but its not the priority of state and media yet.

  3. Wonderful story. Hailing to Thar, we never thought wind erosion is that much harmful and leading us to several diseases. It was very informative in order to educate the area people particularly and generally to everyone. Thanks News lense fir highlighting this issue. Allah Bux is explorer journalist and his contribution to Thar couldn’t be rule out.

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