ECONOMIC UPLIFT OF THAR AFTER MONSOON RAIN
By Dr. Shamsuddin Tunio
Aug 06 - 12 , 2001
Thar is dry sandy desert of Sindh-Pakistan, which is the land of drastic droughts and havoc famines, it is not better any way from the African Sahara, due to water scarcity, low rainfall, high temperatures and hot winds. The hot winds always warmth sand and sand flora, where Akk plant (Calotropis procera) too suffers heat waves and warmth may be persisted in it little longer during day.
Thar is divided in five Taluka such as Mithi, Chacharo, Nagarparkar, Diplo and Umerkot and geographically into nine zones including Khawar, Dhat, Kantho, Parkar, Vat, Samroti, Wango, Muharano and Achhro Thar. The total area of Tharparkar is 22000 square kilometer. The total culturable land is about 4.7 million hectares, out of which 1.7 million hectares are not cultivable and used for animal grazing called Gauchar land and 3 million hectares are cultivated by growing different crops like guar, millet, Mungbean, Kidney bean, Sesame, melons and castor. The agriculture entirely depends on rainfall, however agriculture on dug well is carried in southern parts of Thar around Karoonjhar hills of Ngarparkar where cash crops are grown like chillies, onion, garlic, brinjal, and wheat.
This land suffers a lot due to 3 to 5 years drought and scarcity of water, food shortage, poverty as risk to life, endanger to livestock and decline in economic mobility of the area and people. The people of Thar desert live like a globally invisible and insignificant sect of himan kind, with no role in this world except to survive under hardships. The geographical and environmenntal situation prevailing in this part of the world had never been sustained until and unless nature blessed Thar by rain water.
The climate of Thar is arid and rating to cool winters and dry and warm summers. Annual rainfall ranges from 200 mm to 300 mm and the climate is arid and sub-tropical. All the tropical crops are grown round the year. The rainfall is low which occurs only in monsoon season starting from June - September with high intensity and low frequency. Irregular rainfall periods are followed by long drought periods and high evaporation and evapotranspiration are due to high temperature, which dries the surface water reservoirs and groundater aquifer. About 95% of total precipitation occurs in monsoon durng June - Septerber.
Rainfall is the only source of fresh surface and groundwater. The rainfall is limited and occurs during the monsoon season from June-September with a high intensity and low frequency, the temperature is high due to which evapration is five times higher than rainfall. Such factors affect the open Taraies and cause low recharge to the groundwater aquifers and second main factor is run off, of rain water.
The rainy season has started and rain has poured down on Thar's dry sand with its continuous intervals and follow ups for improving the prospects of a better harvest of local indigenous crops in Thar desert, which might washes out ruins and bad looks created by drought and havoc famine. At present, rain has graced and blessed all areas of the drought striken Thar with its high and heavy influx, which has soaked the sandy lands. It is a signal to the peasants and farmers, to come up with their Agro-tools to sow seeds of being prosperous, to bring cheapenss and abundance of grains, which is locally a sign of abundance or plenty of food.
The soils of Thar are sandy to sandy loam which contain enough fine particles of clay and silt so it is fertile land. The source of fresh water is rainfall which showers in June-September in normal years and varies between 200 mm to 300 mm. But peak season of rain is July and August. The rainfall is also not uniform all over Thar. The rain water is collected in tarais, rain dams, ponds and whereas covered tanks, well as are recharged for drinking, livestock and in some areas for agricultural purposes.
Parkar is quite different from the rest of the area of Thar having rocky plains. The watertable ranges from 20-100 feet. With Karoonjhar hill in the middle of the area being the source of recharge for shallow aquifers. However, the option of exploiting rain water by recharging the aquirers by controlling the surface run off through retention dams is successful. Tharaies and ponds in the area where groundwater is saline provide drinking water around the year.
Karoonjhar hill area is like a bowl with few holes in the form of short time rivers which take the rain water to Rann of Katchh during monsoon. It covers an area of about 400 sq. which has a big capacity to store rain water by closing such short time rivers. The local people narrated that if such rivers are plugged the bowl would be full of water, villagers are confident that in such a scenario one monsoon would be enough to face a drought of 4 years.
For the struggle of survival, the peasants and farmers of Thar prepare their lands and grow local crops like millet, sorghum, Guar, mung, sesame etc in the early step, which might benefit to farmer to improve and produce "the grains in abundance' and green fodder for the animals which are being reared in this dry region (Table 1).
The desert itself let flourish natural vegetation of all kinds after rain, which emerge on the moisture conserved by the sandy land, spread over the whole Thar, which is considered as the most fertile area. The natural flora and herbs emerge after rain may be very useful for mankind, due to food and medicinal value and reliveving pains of desert people. The natural vegetation include herbs, shrubs, grasses and pastures, which boost up economy of Thar while provding food, feed, fuel and shelter to local population. Thar and its population are relying on such resources to build up economy rather look for donors or funding agencies to provide an aid, which might not be sufficent to resettle them in the drought stricken areas.
Rain increases opportunities to produce more food by growing cereals like sorghum and millet and legumes such as cluster bean, mungbean and Kidney bean. However, the grains had never been, the only food of the people living in Thar desert. But people also relish and rely upon natural herbs and plants or their edible parts including roots, leaves, delicates stems, flowers and fruits. The natural herbs like Amaranths, Digeria,, Chenopodium, Purslane, Wild cucumber, Melons, Pods of prosopis, fruits of capper and salvadora are being used in food. Mushrooms appear in abundance in Thar after rain, which is among indigenous foods and is very important foodstuff in the famine conditions (Table 2).
Livestock and wildlife
The food stuffs, from domestic animals and livestock may be abundance or plenty with availability of green fodder in the dry areas after rain. The ample production of milk, butter and meat is due to prosperousness of the Thar area. Thari cow, sheep and goats may be out numbered as pasture, greenery and green fodder become cheap and abundant. Thari oxen are the symbols of strong drought animals of the Thar regionn. Whereas, wild life of Thar can not be ignored, which is being conserved under rangelands and natural habitats of Thar. Wild life of Thar desert viz; Deer Antelopes, Black buck, Wild ass, Bustard, Peacock & Partridges etc are world wide important.
Thar has problems of versatile type, where food is not unique problem but drinking water, health, shelter and jobs are rarely being met. The water storage is one of the main problems of Thar for the living population. The water shortage in terms of crop cultivation and for drinking purposes is chronic one. The sandy soils of Thar may not hold water for longer periods. Thus, farmers start preparting their lands to sow seeds either earlier or soon after rainfall, to avoid moisture losses from the soil.
The soil moisture conservation for longer times in this sandy desert land is nevertheless problems, which must be preserved for crop productioh.
Rain Storage Methods
In the agriculturally sound areas, before rain fall farmers make bunds, dig pits and go for conservation tillage practices to retain more water in the sandy soils for crop cultivation purposes. The rain water is collected into natural ditches and depressions locally known as Tal and Tarayoon and the rain water collected is locally called as palar.
The rain water may also be stored in earthen jars; house hold utensils and overground as well as underground cemented tanks locally known as Tankas. The local population also store rain water on the ceilings of "Pucca houses" with solid borders. The capacity of such water containers and reservoirs is not much enough to meet drinkinng water needs of one family, community or population living in the area. But, the rain falling with enough quantity during a particular rainy season may saturate the deeper layers of soil with recharging the subsoil, which may improve undergroud level of sweet water and also recharge wells dug in the drought stricken area of Thar.
Sindh alongwith desert Thar is an arid part of the country where there is high temperatures, hot winds and low rainfall, which is sporadic in nautre. Monsoon rains may come into 2-3 years intervals with high influx. Annual rinfall range in Sindh is 5-7 inches and after every 2-3 years interval, heavy rainfall may develop known as torrential rain. We have little winter monsoon rains in December and January but summer monsoon rains may develop in July to August with high intensity under specific intervals and weather conditions. Despite of necessary arrangements made for collecting and conserving rain water. There is great need fo digging canal in Thar, which may be seasonal one to bring high flow of water during flood times. This type of canal must begin from Sukkur barrage towards Thar.
The weather as well as socio-economic conditions may improve in Thar when there is establishment of arid zone forestry and tree plantations every year after monsoon rains occur in the desert. Growing indigenous Food crops, prosperity may also brought about in the area of Thar. The rain dams should be developed in Thar areas where high depressions are found by erupting bunds. Such rain dams may be the source of drinking water for mankind and animals. It would not only improve grass and greenery in the desert but could attract quite good number of tourists to visit Thar while it is lush green and blessed with rain. Where there is sign of prosperity and pleasant weather and no danger to life.
The author is Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy, Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam
Table 1: Food crops grown in Thar
Tooth brush plant
Wild grainn grass