<p>Art: Obair Khan/ SAMAA Digital</p>

Art: Obair Khan/ SAMAA Digital

On the brink: Parched Cholistan thirsts for water

SAMAA TV, Shahid Afridi Foundation bring you a special telethon
Updated 03 Jun, 2022 03:50pm

Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of southern Punjab’s driest region, Cholistan, are staring at oblivion as they search desperately for the elixir of life - water. Amongst the driest region in the country, people and animals alike are forced to consume water in whatever form they find it, muddied and contaminated.

Official records may attribute many deaths in the parched region to diseases, but in reality, they are dying of thirst. At least 200 livestock were killed experiencing water constraints in the past few weeks as the 18-month-long drought persists.

The Constitution of Pakistan terms water as a basic fundamental right for the citizens without any discrimination. Yet, those at the helm of affairs at the provincial and federal levels, remain unmoved to the tragedy unfolding in the 25,800 square-kilometer wide region.

Their apathy, and sweltering temperatures have forced many locals to follow the water out of the desert region.

Live telethon

One of the residents claims that the authorities charge them for water for which they had to walk miles in the scorching heat of the desert.

“I have looked at four to five ponds on my way but all of them were dried,” he weeps.

Comedian Shafaat Ali urged the veterinarians to volunteer as cattle for the locals are precious to them because their livelihood largely depends on the animals.

Death and sand

The Cholistan region is a desert region. Water is quite scarce here. To ameliorate this, more than 11,000 water reservoirs and 200 small dams were set up here to trap water for extended use.

But a drought has outlasted the reservoirs, depriving 90,000 households of the basic human need – water, official figures suggested.

While residents here herd around 1.5 million livestock and generate some 800,000 liters of milk to sustain themselves, the absence of water means they too cannot produce milk anymore. So far, only 12 water tankers have been servicing this vast region.

In an effort to help the Bahawalpur civil administration, Pakistan Army has established a relief camp for the drought-affected people. A Bahawalpur Corps spokesperson has said that they are providing medical and relief facilities to locals.

For this purpose, he said that they have set up a 42-bed heat stroke center in the Chanan Pir area of Cholistan, which is providing free medical aid.

“Three mobile health teams, equipped with heatstroke treatment facilities, are active in the drought-hit areas of Cholistan, providing treatment and water to the people and their cattle,” the officer added.

These noble efforts, though, are still not enough to overcome the impact of drought in the region and one of the warmest heatwaves on record.

Locals have demanded that the government release additional water into the canals to save them from certain doom.

Recognizing the extreme situation, the Punjab Disaster Management Authority and the Punjab Emergency Service are working with the divisional and district administrations along with the management of the Cholistan Development Authority, to help people in distress.

The government has set up relief centers at Khutri Bungalow, Mithra Bungalow, Derawar Fort, Channan Pir, Chak No 75-DB, and Kala Pahaar.

SAMAA TV’s Ahsan Ansari has reported that the government had launched a project worth millions of rupees to build a water pipeline at Sodhiyan to provide Cholistan’s residents with clean, potable water.

Documents showed that the Sodhiyan Water Pipeline project had been launched in August 2007. A deadline of 18 months had been set for completing the project while it was estimated to cost around Rs400 million. But lack of “government funds” meant that residents are still waiting for any water to come through even 14 years on.

Measuring more than 700,000 feet, the pipeline is as dry as the deserts of Cholistan.

Do your part

To assist the residents of Cholistan, SAMAA TV has partnered with Shahid Afridi Foundation in a special telethon to raise funds for the affectees of Cholistan.

Initiating the good cause, Shahid Afridi’s daughters played their bit by contributing Rs100,000 to the fund for the drought-hit regions.

You can make your contributions to the Shahid Afridi Foundation on the account details below:

**Account title: Shahid Afridi Foundation

HBL Account: 000077900930203 Bank AlHabib Account: 1003008108709001

Phone: 02138791234 and 02138791235**