Diseases turn into disaster in Thar due to water pollution, malnutrition

KARACHI: Low nutrition and polluted water have badly affected health of people in Thar, particularly women and children, and the situation has turned so worst that diseases have turned into a disaster, said Tanveer Arif, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) in an interview to PPI on Sunday.

“The baseline health facilities are lower than required standard. The inadequate facilities have raised the problems facing people in Thar. This is because of the fact that the government approach is short-term as it usually responds when emergency strikes and take actions to defend itself,” says Scope CEO.

He further said: “It is not only Thar which is hit by these issues, but other areas of the country like Achhro Thar, Cholistan, Balochistan and FATA are also worst hit in this regard.”

Thar is not totally ignored as in 2000, there were major developments like laying of road network, launching of mobile networks and provision of piped water to the people of Thar. However, region is huge, population is scattered, and infrastructure is still poor, he added.

NGOs have their own priorities. Government provide infrastructure, district regimes work at UC level and NGOs deliver at village level. If one of them does not work, whole system can fail, he noted.

As compare to population of 1.3 million in Thar, health facilities are inadequate. Hence, there is need to establish more hospitals in all talukas and health centers in villages of this desert area of Sindh.

Climate change is visibly affecting the region in form of changed rainy patterns, frequent droughts, and affect on natural resources, cropping pattern, he said.

“We should not always seek scapegoats all the time. Thar is a difficult area as people are too many and scattered with their own pastoral lifestyle. The governance in this area is as bad as in Cholistan or Balochistan, where resources are lacking.”

To tackle climate change and other issues facing Thar, Tanveer said that long-term projects are needed to be launched in Thar and ensure dependable sources of water in form of canals, more water resources, large rainwater harvesting ponds, drought resistant agriculture, more roads, effective livestock management system.

“When income will rise in this region, other issues will also be resolved,” he said. There are some people who make money from short-term measures. There is need to first build major infrastructure like building a canal from Naukot and spread water courses and remodel water ponds into large and deep water collection ponds, Tanveer said.

He also stressed the need to provide more water supply schemes with filtration plants, besides developing livestock marketing system so that people of the area could get good income and pass life without any trouble.

Thar Desert is also known as the Great Indian Desert) and is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent and forms a natural boundary running along the border between India and Pakistan.

With an area of more than 200,000 km2, within the Indian state of Rajasthan, covering the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur, and some region of the states of Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. It is the world’s 18th largest subtropical desert.

Tharparkar is the only fertile desert in the world. The region derives its names from Thar and Parkar. The name Thar is from Thul, the general term for sand region or sand ridges and Parkar literary means “to cross over”. The region was earlier known as Thar and Parkar, later they became one word.

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