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Thar desert blooms in Sindh

Receiving a good amount of rainfall after many years, the Thar desert is in full bloom in Sindh province

It has been nearly seven years since the residents of Pakistan’s Thar desert saw a decent amount of rainfall, but this year has been different.

This year’s rains have transformed the harsh landscape and its inhabitants. Farmers are tilling their land, planting seeds, and for the first time in years, expecting a good harvest.

The transformation of the desert landscape has attracted tourists from all over Pakistan to marvel at the grass-lined roadways that were, until recently, just drab sand and stone.

The desert landscape has turned into a lush green vista [image by: Manoj Genani]
Located in in the south of Pakistan’s Sindh province, bordering India to the east, the Thar desert is home to many varieties of indigenous trees, herbs, and grasses. It is the latter that provides feed for more than 6 million livestock.

Thari men moving cattle to the barrage areas [image by: Manoj Genani]
One and a half month ago, heavy winds accompanied by soaring temperature hit the region. People migrated towards the barrage areas more than 200 kilometers away with their cattle.

Now, all that has changed. In the deep desert, dunes have been covered by a greenish coverlet, trees have doubled & tripled their leaves, and the grass is growing with unrestrained enthusiasm.

Khaku is delighted by the rains [image by: Manoj Genani]
Mr Khaku, who lives in the village of Dhorio, was weeding out grass from his land. He was thankful for the rain, and said that he had invested PKR 20,000 (USD 128) on his land, and intended to work for the next three months until the harvest in the last week of November.

His family – he has seven children – seemed to be as enthusiastic as he was, working from sunrise to sunset. Every family member plays a role in cultivating the desert land.

Two children returning from school just a month and a half ago in the district of Umerkot [image by: Manoj Genani]
When drought hits the people and animals face an acute shortage of fodder and cereal crops, as well as water scarcity. These lead to premature births among livestock, and the malnutrition rate increases among children under 5 years of age.

Pregnant and lactating women do not get their proper amount of food. People are forced to migrate towards the areas where barrages have been built to find fodder and water for their cattle.

Just one and a half months ago, the desert was bare [image by: Manoj Genani]
This year may be a year of hope, but nothing is certain, warned Bharumal Amrani, a folklorist and environmental expert. “Nothing can be said finally until the harvest. This time Thar has received enough rains, but there are other climatic challenges that may cause low yield.” Recent attacks by grasshoppers are an issue and have the potential to cause a huge loss.

Local farmers like Nehal, though, are optimistic. He had been taking on labour work during the lean period to manage household expenses. But, after the rains, his family has returned to the land.

Nehal and his family have returned to work on their farm full time [image by: Manoj Genani]
“I invested PKR 30,000 (USD 192) last year, but due to rainfall, we got only fodder for two months and couldn’t manage to return the loan payment. This year we welcomed a good shower, and hope this would give us a way to fulfil household needs until the next rains,” he said.

Despite the amount of rain, there is an issue about their timing. “Due to climate change there has been a in the monsoon, the desert received the first spell of rain almost a month late, and that may badly affect the harvest,” said Aakash Hamirani, a youth activist. Nevertheless, the people are happy, blessing their fortune this year, and hoping it marks a change from the last few years of lean rainfall.

This year the denizens of the desert are happy, but there is no telling the future [image by: Manoj Genani]
This article originally appeared on The Third Pole and has been reproduced with permission.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.