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The News

Published Date: Sep 19, 2011

THAR TO TURN INTO FERTILE LAND IN 15 YEARS

At the time when many parts of Pakistan especially Sindh province are facing adverse effects of climate change, the experts claimed that shift in monsoon belt from north-west to north-south would turn barren Thar area into a fertile land in next 15 years.

The data collected in the last couple of years by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) and other experts clearly indicates that the climate change mainly due to large scale coal based industry in India is shifting monsoon belt towards north-south, which means that historically barren areas of Thar would receive handsome amount of rains in the coming years.

According to PMD, the Thar area received up to 1400mm rains in ongoing monsoon season, much to the surprise of weather experts who never ever experienced such a situation in the recorded history.

On one hand we have to cope with the growing challenges of climate change but on the other hand we also have a chance to turn this challenging situation into an opportunity. If climate change causes shift in monsoon belt then we would be able not only to promote agricultural activities in the Thar area but also built dams for water storage and power production, Arshad H. Abbasi, senior advisor at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) told this correspondent on Sunday.

According to recent reports, the monsoon spell has brought lush vegetation to the traditionally barren landscapes of the Thar Desert. With variable climatic conditions comprising long spells of dust storms and inadequate rainfall Tharparker, Umerkot, Khairpur and Sanghar districts are seldom endowed with lush plant foliage and pleasant temperatures. However, the arrival of monsoon rains added to the area s natural beauty and brought prosperity to people.

Thar Desert has an area of 22,000 sq km and is considered one of the biggest deserts in the world. This is the second consecutive year in which the district has benefited from rain.

The reports also stated that desert s traditional plants such as phog , akk , babur , talhi , neem , jar and ghughar are now sprouting after the rainfall. Wildlife such as Chikaras, desert foxes, jackals, hyenas and mongoose is also thriving. Many birds including peacocks, partridges, owls, doves, and hawks have also been spotted in Nargarparkar and Chachro talukas.

The official data showed that there are very few water reservoirs in the Thar in the shape of small ponds in areas like Chalchi, Unand Ki Trai, Gudray, Rana Ser, Katho, Mithi, Sanga and Lorai. Water deposits in these ponds can sustain from seven to eight months. There are many other small ponds that become dry within a month or two.

Arshad Abbasi said the government should formulate a two-pronged policy in which it should focus on measures to simultaneously tackle adverse effects of climate change and transform challenges into opportunity for betterment of the country.

I have been closely following the weather patterns especially in the Thar area and it is not for the first time that its many parts received heavy rains as it also happened in last couple of years, he said.

The historic data stated that the Thar area turned into desert relatively recently: perhaps around 2000-1500 BC. Around this time the Ghaggar ceased to be a major river. It now terminates in the desert but at one time was a water source for the Indus Valley Civilization centre of Mohenjodaro. It has been observed through remote sensing techniques that Quaternary climatic changes and neotectonics have played a significant role in modifying the drainage courses in this part.

Dilating upon recent floods in Sindh he said this tragedy could have been turned into opportunity if there were water storage facilities as floodwater could have helped irrigate 3.2 million acres of land in the province.

The claim of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) carries no weight that the topography of Sindh is flat and floods are not manageable. The maximum elevation in the Sindh Segment of Kirthar Mountains is 7,056 feet above sea level, which makes it the highest peak of Sindh, situated a few miles north-west of the upcoming Gorakh Hill Station which is at 5,688 feet. The next highest peak of Sindh is 6,880 feet high peak, known locally as Kutte-i-Kabar (Dog s Tomb).

There are also a number of other peaks in the Sindh segment of Kirthar Mountains exceeding 5,500 feet. So the topography of Sindh dictates that the floods are manageable with sustainable planning, he said.