Published On: Fri, Aug 28th, 2015

Drought in Balochistan disastrous for agriculture, livestock

Malik Achakzai

QUETTA: The recent drought reported in Balochistan for which the government earmarked Rs1 billion threatens the province’s livestock and agriculture sectors.

Amir Jan Baloch, a native of Balochistan has brought his sheep herd to the Quetta’s Sra Ghurgi area as he’s purchased some remaining wheat corps in the vicinity.

“No rain, and hence no grass would kill our animals,” he says.

Water is essential for life but Balochistan faces extreme water shortages. While the province on average receives enough annual rain, the government has no plans to store rainwater.

“The underground water table is disturbed and drought can be more deadly for the living beings in the province. We have no alternative to store the annual rainwater, says Dauran Khan, assistant director Balochistan irrigation and power department.

“Livelihood of our people depends on the livestock, and sheep of different types are grazed around the lands,” Senator Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel tells The Nature News. “If international organisations and the government pay attention to our region the communities can survive even in drought.”

A file photo of a sheep herd in Balochistan. PHOTO: MALIK ACHAKZAI

A file photo of a sheep herd in Balochistan. PHOTO: MALIK ACHAKZAI

But without safe and favourable environment, survival is difficult.

“The deprivation of the people of Balochistan pushes them to be dependent on natural resources such as rainwater, rangelands, forests and animals,” says Manger IUCN Balochistan Faiz Kakar. “They use natural gravity based water channels for agriculture purposes to earn their livelihoods.”

Meanwhile, reports suggest the province has lost millions of trees since the beginning of drought season in Balochistan in 1994.

“Farmers and landowners across Balochistan have lost whatever they had,” Haji Abdul Rahman Bazai, general secretary Zamindar Action Committee Balochistan tells The Nature News. “Most of the families started to find new ways of earning livelihood instead of agriculture.”

Haji Muhammad Essa Kakozai used to earn enough by selling fruits and vegetable but now he’s worried about the survival of his apple trees.

“For years we tried to water our trees and when they came near of bearing fruit, the deadly drought disturbed everything,” he says. “But it is not only nature that causes droughts. The government stops power in our transmission lines and the lines are often attacked by Baloch separatists. As a result, the turbines become non-operational even in the hot summers, destroying most of our agriculture.”
Underground water table disturbance owing to thousands of tube wells is another issue that affects the environment.

But what is the solution?

“Different projects are needed to spread a net of dams that will keep the underground water table balanced, and provide enough water for agriculture,” says Professor Nanak Khan Musakhel of the Balochistan Agriculture College, Quetta.

Beside these efforts, Nanak suggests the government to take expertise from countries which have new agriculture and livestock keeping techniques, allowing the people to remain economically stable and continue with their agriculture and livestock herding.

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