By TNV Desk-
Though Balochistan is a strategically important province to Pakistan which generates substantial revenue for the Pakistan government due to its high concentration of natural resources – including oil, coal, gold, copper and gas reserves, – and the only deep-sea port at Gwadar. However still Balochistan remains the poorest Pakistani province.
A recent report in Dawn( https://www.dawn.com/news/1633202) titled “Northern Balochistan: from plenty to penury” says, “ Years back, farm and garden used to define Balochistan’s northern belt, fruits and vegetables lending a greenish tinge to the landscape. Now it is wearing a barren, depressed look.”
Explaining about the situation of its villages like Zaland, a village in Pishin district, it said, “Pishin used to be a part of Quetta, but was made a district in 1975. It was bifurcated into Pishin and Killa Abdullah district back in the 1990s.Although Pishin is not far from the provincial capital, it is crying out for basic necessities. Zaland, Pashto for ‘shining’, is a picture of backwardness and neglect.”
On Pakistan government attention to its suffering, it said, “But for some single roads, it seems the godforsaken place doesn’t exist on the administration’s roadmap. Zaland suffered a locust invasion last year, almost coinciding with the onset of Covid-19.
“We carried out sprays on our own as the administration didn’t bother to do so,” recalls Abdul Hayee Kakar, a schoolteacher and farmer.
“The locust invasion occurred at a time when crops were ready.”
The report said, “The administration’s apathy is responsible for the region’s decline.”
“Among other things, some of the oldest trees are dying out.”
“We applied Gibralic acid, a tablet, on the trees. I think the ‘cure’ (tablet), ironically enough, caused the death of these trees,” Shoaib Khan Tareen, a farmer, lamented. The water table has gone down in Zaland, turning our fields dry.”
“Environment, weather condition can be blamed for shortage of water leading to famine and drought in the region, but what can be blamed for government’s neglect. This is why green patches of land are turning dry. Dried trees of fruits are being chopped down. Such sights abound in Pishin district.”
It further said, “Tankers carrying water for domestic consumption are a common sight. “We are dependent on these tankers,” bemoans Asif Kakar, a young farmer in Zangiwal, Loralai valley. “My tubewell, which runs on electricity, cannot meet my water needs because power supply usually lasts just one hour.”
It added, “After returning to the provincial capital, I spoke to Dr Aziz Barech, a Quetta-based agriculturist, about the desolation that now seems to be overtaking Balochistan’s north. “Like the rest of the world, global warming is wreaking havoc upon Balochistan,” he said.
“According to him, the province’s northern belt hardly ever saw temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius a decade or two ago. “But these days it is common because of climate change.”
It said, “Due to lack of rain and snow, the water table has gone down drastically,” Aziz Barech said. He called upon the government to take measures for conservation of precious water. But NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are active in northern parts of Balochistan more than the government.
It further said, “I came upon a group of NGO workers who were interviewing a mechanic who was able to set up his own shop thanks to assistance given by the organization. An elderly Pashtun, with a shawl placed on his head to shield from a merciless sun, appeared on the scene as if out of nowhere. He turned out to be a personification of scepticism when he spoke. “Yeh sab khilona hai…aur panch dino main khatm ho jayega (this is a mere toy…and will disappear after just five days.”
Pakistan has been extracting so much from this mineral source rich province and also contributing in further harm due to CPEC projects. Simple measures like sufficient supply of electricity, afforestation, educating farmers about drought resistant crops, controlling unemployment and underemployment at policy level is the solution, but only if the government has the intent.