THAR/BADIN - Commissioner Mirpurkhas Division Abdul Waheed Sheikh claimed to have introduced a drought resilient mechanism with the people of Tharparkar district to reduce the bad effects of drought.

He said: “Presently, we have motivated 2,500 families to prepare kitchen gardening at their courtyards and backyards to produce their own safe food through government support.”

He was talking to farmers, Irrigation and Agriculture Department officials, researchers, academia and social development representatives, who delivered their presentations on the occasion of “World Water Day 2019” on Tuesday in Mirpurkhas City.

The event was organised jointly by Laar Humanitarian and Development Programme (LHDP), Research and Development Foundation (RDF), and Sindh Irrigation Drainage Authority (SIDA) in collaboration with Nara Canal Area Water Board.

The commissioner indicated examples that some countries have adapted water recycling and reuse initiatives at local level and getting benefits. “But we do not have the concept of water recycling and reuse of water, so far.”

2,500 families motivated to start kitchen gardening

He said: “Though we have more water resources, but do not have concept of reuse of water.” “We have to work more to improve efficient water irrigation methods, adapt drought resilient mechanism in desert areas. Thar needs new emerging mechanism of agriculture, kitchen gardening and rain water conservation,” he asserted.

He said: “We cannot stop drought, but can minimise its effects through new initiatives. He urged upon the growers to use water sustainability. He asked growers to calculate the need and available sources i.e. water. “Growers should keep an eye on over changing prices of products and marketing mechanism to stay unhurt due to ups and downs in markets,” he added.

He said the people in the world nations pay around 30 percent income tax but here our growers do not have concept of paying taxes.

He said: “We have potential and should adapt value addition of our products to earn more and create employment opportunities for local people. For this, there is need of scientific decisions and change in individual behaviours to build new structures.”

Prof M Ismail Kumbhar of Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam said though Sindh has strong irrigation system with 14 canals and around 5000 watercourses, we are witnessing migration from tail end areas of the province because of increasing poverty. He said we have lost agriculture productivity because of water scarcity, soil degradation and excessive use of chemical input to crops.

Prof Ismail, being researchers said 30--35 percent people in Sindh live below the poverty line. We are witnessing increasing malnutrition among children. More than 50 percent of children under 5-year age are reportedly affected by malnutrition and do not have access to safe food. Besides this, due to increasing unemployment we can see the trend of suicide incident in once agriculture-rich areas. It is alarming and Sindh government should realise to address joblessness and poverty in tail-end areas.

He advised growers to adapt sustainable practices in agriculture and switch on crops, which consume less water and do not need chemical input. We have to change behaviour. Because earlier it was considered that agriculture was backbone of the economy but now it is further important that we need safe food for survival.

Mir Aijaz Talpur, representative of Tail-end Growers Association has expressed concerns over the unequal distribution in canals and watercourses, which has left the farmers communities in helpless situation. Talpur said: “We are getting water share from the largest Nara Canal in Mirpurkhas district through watercourse but the influential landlords get proper share of water and deprive the poor farmers of water in tail-end areas.

This situation should be realised now at all forums, representing government, research, academia and social development organisations.” He said everybody come to forum and start talking about legislation and claiming their initiatives for betterment, but the reality is bitter and unacceptable.

“Only people facing atrocities can realise the pain and anguish while living without potable water in their areas,” said the tail ender representative.

The gathering attracted farmers, both male and female from Kot Ghulam Muhammad barrage and Potho Minor, Dighri, the distributaries of Nara Canal. These two barrages cultivate around 15000 acre land through 31 watercourses.

Nara canal runs from above the Sukkur barrage through Khairpur, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar Districts to the Jamrao Canal. Nara is the longest canal in Pakistan, running for about 364 km with designed capacity of 13,602 cusec. But presently, the farmers pointed out that it is flowing with 5700 cusecs.

Iqbal Hyder of LHDP talked about severity of situation, saying hundreds of children die due to water and sanitation-related ailments. He said the entire development depends on water and we should work on it together.

He said Pakistan is blessed with water resources, which are enough to meet the demand of people, agriculture and industries. He said presently we want to have availability of water, safe and pure water will be the next step in this situation; because water has become polluted through many ways. The irony is that water has become lucrative commodity and people in many areas of Sindh province do not have access to water to quench thirst.

Muhammad Khan Mari, former engineer and underground water expert said he has conducted research on Sukkur barrage about 15-16 years back when I saw sewerage water was being dumped in flowing canal. Now we can see all canals and water bodies are receiving sewerage, municipal and industrial waste. We all dump entire sewerage and poison in water bodies through one or the other way. We can see Badin district and other areas are getting arsenic water.

“We can realise that we have polluted underground water because of excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides in crops, which mix to pollute underground water,” he said.