Kitchen garden in a desert
Tharparkar District, a district spread over 20,000sq kilometres, is one of the 29 districts of Sindh province in Pakistan which is headquartered at Mithi, with a population of about 1.5 million residing in 2,300 villages and urban settlements. It has the lowest Human Development Index of all the districts in Sindh, with water issues as its main problem. Almost 2,000 children under the age of five have died in Tharparkar since 2011 due to water-borne diseases, malnutrition and other health issues.
Tharparkar is the 18th largest desert in the world and is considered to be the only fertile desert. However, the limited period of rainfall in the area results in a shortage of water even for the basic needs. Hence, the inhabitants are not able to fully benefit of the fertility of the land. But the fertility has increased the beauty of the desert with naturally grown trees. The area becomes mesmerising in the rainy season that it attracts tourists mostly from the Sindh province and some from other provinces as well.
The rainy season often starts in July and ends in September, after which there is enough water available in the form of ponds for the dwellers for another 3 months. The pond water, which is also the major source of drinking for animals as well, is understandably not clean enough, but it is better than not having water at all.
The general source of water in the area is wells. But the groundwater level is as deep as 200 feet which goes even deeper when there is no rainfall. Women, being responsible for the job generally, fetch water by pulling water from the well through a rope. With the water being deep down, a single woman can’t fetch water alone. It takes at least five to six women to pull a single bucket of water from a well.