Following a news item appeared in The Nation, Punjab Chief Secretary Naveed Akram Cheema on Thursday directed the officials concerned during a meeting to devise a comprehensive plan to provide the people of Cholistan with the amenities of life.

The meeting came after it reported that if the government did not take immediate steps, drought in Cholistan could result in widespread famine after Tharparkar. Addressing the meeting held here to review the current situation in the region, the secretary directed the officials to launch developmental projects on permanent bases for the purpose. He also directed to establish a network for getting information of Cholistani areas. He claimed that the situation of Cholistan was different from that of Tharparkar. However, he stressed, the government officials perform their duties honestly to avoid food shortage.

On the occasion, MPA Khalid Jajja said that due to the stealing of transformers, water supply to some areas was being delayed and the chief secretary directed to conduct an inquiry and ordered to take strict action against the responsible officials.

He also directed 100 percent attendance of doctors in basic health centres located in the Cholistan areas, and a strict action against the absentees. He directed functioning of mobile dispensaries in the area and satisfactory arrangements for vaccination and provision of fodder for the livestock.

It was told in the meeting that for the provision of drinkable water, 70 water tanks had been set up and the capacity of each tank was 50,000 liters. In the meeting, a project was proposed for the cleanliness of tobas with the help of the Department of Range Management. The chief secretary approved the project and directed related secretary to materialise the project. Punjab Chief Minister’s Coordinator Chaudhry Saood Majeed said that in Cholistan, livestock hold very much importance that is why a system be formulated for the provision of fodder.

During the meeting, Bahawalpur Commissioner Capt (r) Asadullah Khan said that for the provision of water, fodder, vaccines and other facilities, projects had been launched two months ago.

He detailed that four medical camps and four livestock camps were functioning while more than 850 people and 8,000 animals had been vaccinated. He added that 52,000 gallons of water was provided in the tobas through water tanks and four water supply schemes were working properly.

He claimed that there was no danger of food shortage and diseases in any part of Cholistan. The team of UNICEF Nutrition also visited the region and found that there was no shortage of food, he said.

The desert consists of 6,600,000 acres of land where average rainfall is 75 to 80 millilitre and in the last year due to lack of rains and uncleanliness of more than 1,100 tobas, Cholistan is going through drought.

If there are no rainfalls in Cholistan until April, there is a danger that it might take the same shape like Thar, the experts said in the report. They added that Cholistan faces famine after every 10 years which can be prevented by taking timely steps. They suggested that the government should make active 10 mobile dispensaries of livestock in Cholistan. They also said that it should repair and make functional the 254-kilometre pipeline which Cholistan Development Authority had installed.

As per the report, owing to the drought in Cholistan desert, the people have started leaving the area along with their cattle on a large scale as 99% tobas have dried up. “The government should declare Cholistan calamity-hit area and take steps to save the lives on emergency basis,” demanded the people. According to unofficial statistics, over 200,000 cattle heads including camel, cows and sheep and almost 175,000 Cholistani people totally rely on water which gathers in the tobas during the rains. Because of uncleanliness, the tobas had filled by sand.