Thar drought and migration

THIS YEAR, due to lack of monsoon rains, the area is again experiencing a drought and the district government has already recommended declaring the district as calamity-hit. There are indications that the situation might turn out to be more serious than it was in 1985-87 and 1999-2000 when Tharparkar had its worst droughts in last three decades.

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The last years delayed devastating rains, causing immense runoff, left more than two-thirds area with no grass/crops. Even the undamaged parts remained under threat of overgrazing by livestock that escaped from flooded parts of Sindh. The failure of current monsoon rains also caused food and fodder scarcity and dearth in the natural flora productions.

Water availability is also inadequate. A mass exodus is expected if no timely measures are taken. People are forced to sell off their animals swiftly due to cash needs, fodder scarcity and diseases/mortality of animals.

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The following steps are recommended to be taken on an urgent basis:

Tharparkar should be declared as a calamity-hit area. The NDMA itself should also call the international organisations and subsequently start the food and fodder relief work.

Hand-pumps, water storage tanks and small river osmosis systems should be provided accordingly in areas facing water scarcity. The situation should be monitored strictly. If the situation deteriorates, health camps should be set up accordingly. All the agricultural taxes should be written off in the area.

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Special funds in the government annual budgets should be allocated, and the district administration/ government must be authorised to utilise the funds. The Sindh Calamity Act 1958 must be amended and reformulated as a comprehensive and applicable drought and disaster policy embodied with, inter-alia, all the above-recommended policy guidelines.

Ashok Suthar @Tharparkar

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