Politicians and development activists have joined the chorus of appeals to federal and provincial authorities to ferry water to Cholistan on an emergency basis and restore their piped water supplies.
Former federal minister, Muhammad Ali Durrani, warned of catastrophic consequences if the drought-threatened region was not sent adequate supplies of water. Durrani told The Express Tribune that he would inform the prime minister and the chief minister of Punjab of the severity of the threat.
“I will request them to take immediate steps to supply water on an emergency basis to Cholistan, otherwise the area will turn into a graveyard for humans and livestock,” he said.
Already the water shortage has led to three deaths and ravaged hundreds of livestock animals. Qazi Allah Ditta, a resident of Derawar Fort, told The Express Tribune that people endure extreme conditions as there is no drinking water available for humans or for the livestock they keep. The residents often have to migrate from Cholistan in order to save themselves and their animals.
There are four sources of water in the area, according to Shahnawaz Khan, a former naib nazim in Derawar Fort. The first is a traditional toba (Kacha Toba) while the second is Paka toba (dam type). Underground water reserves (Kund) and wells are the other two sources. Since well water tends to be brackish and salty, it is rarely used for drinking purposes.
During the rainy season these tobas are replenished with water and the Cholistanis and their livestock use this water for their survival, Khan added.
The president of Al Sadiq Desert Welfare Organisation, Riaz Ahmad Baloch, agrees that the inhabitants of Cholistan are in a miserable condition. “The Punjab government had allocated Rs10 million to clean the tobas of the area but so far only Rs3 million have been used and the remaining Rs7 million have lapsed owning to the negligence of the Cholistan Developmant Authority”.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Chaudhry Saood Majid puts down the water shortage in Cholistan to harsh weather conditions. Majid also claims that he has asked the chief minister of Punjab to change the water pipelines soon.
Durrani is convinced that Cholistan’s water woes can be traced to mismanagement and negligence on the part of the government and concerned departments.
The Punjab government has laid a 25km long pipeline to facilitate the people. But due to the non-payment of electricity bills to the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), the supply of electricity to the turbines has been stopped which, in turn, has crippled the supply of water.
Referring to a question about electricity bills, Majid said that if Wapda had cut any connection of turbines due to non-payment “we will pay the bills on an urgent basis and get the connection restored”.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.