Tharparkar has 1.6 million population spread over 22,000 square kilometres. Thar desert is 17% of whole Sindh. It means 17% population is still deprived of Indus River sweat water. Tharparkar is undergoing a water crisis once again, the effects of which might become more severe than the prevailing pandemic.

Water resources in Thar desert are open wells, solar pumps and reverse osmosis plants.

Only 47% of the population has access to drinking water. Wells are crowded and their supply strained, as 60% of households wait more than an hour at wells for their turn, and 30% households spend more than Rs 30 for two buckets of water. About 85% of households use akhaal (rubber bags carried by a camel or donkey) to carry water, while 25% use buckets carried by camel or donkey. Basic waste management is present in the urban parts of the district. However, rural areas, which are 96% of the district population, lack such facilities. About 44% of households in Tharparkar have no toilets. Yes, this is a district with 1.6 million Population in Sindh which is a source of major share of revenue generation for Pakistan. The Sindh govt every year runs WASH Program but Tharparkar remains the same and so its water crisis.

It is observed that most of the inhabitants of district Tharparkar are using groundwater for human consumption, based on dug wells. The dug wells are within sand dunes region, which varies in depth between 15 to 93 meters. The groundwater mostly in the region is recharged by seasonal rainfall in monsoon (June – September).

It may be roughly concluded that 57.5 populations of Talukas mainly Mithi, Chachro, and Diplo of district Tharparkar are consuming groundwater with TDS greater than 3000 mg/L, which is much higher than permissible limit of WHO for human consumption and may be one of the reason for the poor health of the inhabitants.

Open wells are from ancient times but district local govt/ Sindh govt keep allocating funds for the same wells showing them as new cases. In the current situation, it is not feasible to dig open pit/ wells.

About 700 RO plants were approved, and budget was released but out of which 450 plants were installed physically and mostly are dried due to the lack of repair and maintenance. Nonstandard material/equipment at the time of installation is also one of the reasons of short life of these plants. People are forced to drink underground water which contains minerals meaning that it’s not only bitter in taste but also hazardous to life. It is saline and has a high concentration of various salts and minerals, which are dangerous for human, as well as livestock health.

Thousands of solar pumps are being installed by District local government & NGO from 2008 to till date selection based on political influence or for financial favours but mostly exist only in papers, others are dysfunctional, because they were installed without proper technical feasibility and quality maintenance. Therefore budget of billions rupees wasted by present District local Administration.

But this is ongoing issue what matters is the notice of inviting tenders of 44 crore was released. This needs urgent attention to safeguard taxpayers’ money and stop further leakages.

Way Forward;

1. High level forensic audit/ inquiry needed on release of budget for water projects for a period 2008 to 2020

2. Feasibility or study needed for Water canal

3. Supply of drinking water through pipes

4. Independent board/ Authority may be established for water solution in Thar to fast track decision making process to find sustainable solution

Thar with 45% population less than age 15 they deserve a better future, safe drinking water, education and health, they must be integrated to the economic development of Pakistan and that is only possible once they get the necessities.

–The writer is MPA in Sindh.