Published On: Sat, Oct 3rd, 2015

Climate change: Seasonal migration becomes routine for people of Thar

Thar Illustration

Sanjay Sadhwani

Mithi, Tharparkar: As climate change has affected the livelihoods of thousands of inhabitants of Tharparkar Desert, forced migration of people towards barrage areas has become more frequent in recent years, with a record number of desert dwellers moving in 2015.

Prolonged droughts have proved fatal for humans, livestock as well as wildlife.

Waghoo Mal, a farmer in Haryal village of the district cultivates his fields with the relevant seeds soon after the first shower.

This monsoon, when it rained in Tharparkar, started dreaming of prosperity. But since it did not drizzle the second time, the seeds went to waste, and his dreams were shattered.

Regardless of downpour, neither plain grass nor crops could be grown on his fields.

He is now considering moving along with his cattle to barrage areas.

Along with Mal, livelihood of almost all of the desert dwellers (over 1.5 million) depends on rain-fed agriculture.

Thar has 0.8 million of cultivable land, which is used by farmers to plant different crops. A minimum of three showers at regular intervals are required for a good crop, District Agriculture Officer Vijay Kumar told The Nature News.

But Waghoo is not the only one who’s planning to migrate. Around 40 per cent Tharparkar’s total population migrates towards barrage areas every year, where they would work as peasants. Majority of them belongs to Kohli, Bheel and Meghwaar communities of ‘lower caste’ Hindus, who are neither educated nor have any employment.

Senior manger WWF-Pakistan Shehzadi Tunio told The Nature News that due to no crops and absence of water, Tharis are forced to migrate.

“Most of them migrate towards Badin, Thatta, Hyderabad and other nearby areas. Change in climate not only disturbs humans, but it also affects the natural resources and environment,” she says.

In Thar, if it rains on average of 50-60mm in the first week of July, peasants cultivate their fields mostly with different beans and millets.

But if does not downpour again till the end of September, the seeds may go to waste, with the existing grass also getting dry, adds Kumar.

Crops are not the only items required for survival. Plain grass is vital for the endurance of livestock. Almost seven million domesticated animals are a part of community life in Tharparkar district.

However, since water scarcity has decreased ground fertility, over the years growth of grass has fallen, says Bhalu Mal Amrani, a volunteer working for SCOPE, an environment protection organisation working in the district.

“After rains this monsoon, sun did not shine for the next five days as sky was covered with clouds. As a result, grass did not get enough sunlight to mature,” says CEO of AWARE Ali Akbar Rahimoon.

Climate change has affected the entire globe, and Tharparkar is no exception, adds CEO of SCOPE Tanveer Arif.

“Government should send weather experts in Thar to investigate the reasons behind no growth of grass and crops.”

This article has been published in arrangement with NCEJ as part of its training in Tharpakar on “Reporting impacts of climate change on communities”

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