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EDITORIAL: While the nation’s eyes are riveted on the ongoing polarized political theatrics there is hardly a mention of the severely drought-hit Cholistan. That arid stretch of land is starved of water as almost all of its 3,000 plus Tobas and Dahars have dried up and there is little hope of rainfall in near future, or the concerned authority’s attempt at sending in water tankers to fill the dried ponds.

The inhabitants of Cholistan now no more look at the sky for clouds for rain as temperature exceeds 51-plus C. Their livestock are dying, their children getting malnourished and families moving to less-affected areas where they are not welcomed. A tragedy of biblical dimensions has befallen the people of Cholistan. Not that drought has hit Cholistan for the first time; it is a periodic calamity and it takes its due toll. But that should no more be the case.

Given the resources now available with government, the much-needed relief can reach the people. Hopefully, the emergency steps promised by the relevant authority to ensure provision of water to fill Tobas materialize at the earliest. But somebody should also go to the place and see for himself the grim realities on the ground.

Perhaps, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif goes there as he did as the chief minister of Punjab in 2014 and helped the water-famine-stricken people of Cholistan turn to their homes, restart their lives, feed their malnourished children and quench the thirst of their livestock.

Cholistan was once a green, prosperous land fed by now extinct Harka River. It flourished as Harka Valley civilization. Its residents, also known as Odd, lived a colourful life, nurtured a distinct culture and the womenfolk wore white bangles. But they could not fight back the climate change as was the case with many other ancient cultures and civilizations.

However, the case of Cholistan is not entirely hopeless; it is a living culture and can be saved by a timely action. Of course they want to be treated as equal citizens of Pakistan, enjoy state patronage and receive fair share of its amenities. But one single move that can help them restart their lives on their own is water-filled ponds.

In a recent expose, a section of media testified the fact that scarcity of water has caused destruction of Cholistanis’ main economic asset — their livestock. Since Cholistan stretches long but is not very wide its dried ponds can be easily reached and filled with water drawn from canals in the settled districts. At the same time the government should help its people exploit its rich solar energy potential, particularly by energizing tubewells to draw out the underground water.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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