Pakistan: Thar's plight

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Dawn Editorial

THE lack of access to clean drinking water and proper health facilities has made the residents of Thar vulnerable to disease. Though this sad state of affairs is not unfamiliar to many in Pakistan the situation in Sindh's Tharparkar, Umerkot and Sanghar districts is particularly alarming.

The residents of this arid, under-developed and remote area of the country have no option but to draw water from wells or store rainwater. The water from wells is said to have dangerously high levels of salts while studies have confirmed that underground wells in parts of the region have amounts of fluoride far above safety levels. Also, experts have warned that storing rainwater may lead to epidemics of gastroenteritis and other water-borne ailments. The effect of drinking impure water has led to health conditions such as bone deformity amongst the residents of Thar. The problem is so widespread that in some villages nearly every family has a member suffering from such ailments. Some Tharis have been suffering for the last three decades, yet this health disorder was first diagnosed in 2004. Sadly, the local health authorities are mostly in the dark about the plight of the affected persons.

It is time the authorities turned their attention to this forsaken area. Apart from disease, parts of Thar have been declared calamity-hit due to drought and hunger. The Sindh health department recently took action when reports emerged in the media of ailments afflicting children in fishing villages on the outskirts of Karachi. Similar action must be taken in Thar. In the short term the government needs to provide Tharis with immediate medical attention. In the long term the provision of a dependable supply of clean drinking water to the area and the establishment of functioning medical facilities in Thar must be made the priority of the provincial and federal governments.

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