BAHAWALPUR-Cholistan Desert, which consists of 6,655,360 acres of land and carries 5,000 years old human civilization, is rich in resources but long neglected thus the people are anxiously awaiting a saviour. The people are looking for a messiah who can change the fate of the area in reality and bring it on a par with the other developed regions.
They said the biggest way for attaining drinking water for 200,000 Cholistanis and more than 1.6 million animals are rainfalls; water accumulated from rainfall is used throughout the year. However, Cholistan including Thar desert could be made oasis with very less water provision, they said.
According to historians, floodwater from Hakra, Sutluj, Bayaas, Ravi, Chennab, Jehlum and Indus Rivers comes to Cholistan due to the natural slop of terrain, and at that time these areas were populated and flourished due to the availability of water and it was rich in all types of agricultural and cattle production.
Due to change in direction of rivers agricultural and cattle production has declined significantly over the time but no significant change is seen in the terrain, water’s natural flow is still maintained towards these areas, they said.
They further said around 160 years ago, canal system was started to establish headworks on rivers and through extensive system of canals, different areas were watered. Due to canal system, water supply to the Cholistan is completely diminished, only rainwater is accumulated in Tobas and Dahars which are not sufficient for 1.6 million cattle due to which wildlife is near to end, they regretted.
In Cholistan and Thar, they said, dozens of Tobas are present and are still connected with Dahars, every year rains provide the water for cattle. In the last 70 years total population of the country has exceeded 200 million and it is feared that in the coming 25 years it will increase up to 300 million that is why there is a need to populate more land, they said. Cholistan and Thar lands need to be provided with water to meet the nutritional needs, they noted. “For doing, there is no need for canals, but only the flooding water of rivers through the Hakra River. The amount of floodwater at Panjnad ranges between 15 to 20 million cusec annually. Only 5 million cusec water can be put from headworks of Sulemanki, Head Islam or Panjnad as an experiment,” they said.
If a motorway could be constructed for economic development, waterway is also necessary which will increase the agricultural production significantly, they said. “1,100 water Tobas, around 100 underground Kunds, more than 200 wells, and almost 276 kilometre of 4 water pipelines which include 92 kilometre pipeline from Khaldi to Chak No 108/DB, 87 kilometer from Chak 111/DNB to Nawaankot , 43 kilometre from Khatdi Dahri to Tufana and 54 kilometre from Mir Garh to Chodi were constructed 12 years ago. There is a need to take further steps for the provision of basic facilities and clean drinking water to Cholistan, for which underground water Tanks (Kunds) and Tobas are cleaned on time and more pipelines and underground water tanks are needed,” they said.
Furthermore, they went on to say, newly-built pipelines need to be connected with the old ones and if one pipeline malfunctions then second could be made functional to ensure the water provision. They suggested. In so many areas of Cholistan old canal system is seen in some areas but due to water shortage not only canals have diminished but also rivers have lost their existence, Sutluj River is also becoming a pile of mud. Canals built during the English rule have diminished due to lack of water, Cholistan’s greenery is diminishing, trees are not seen in miles and small herbs are also dried, animals and birds are migrating from this area.
Due to constant drought in Cholistan birds, animals and humans are migrating, they said and added that for some time, rainfalls have lowered then expected due to which birds which used to migrate to Cholistan have also changed their direction.