This article appeared in daily the Nation
Roaming around anywhere in rural Pakistan where floodwater has receded reveals the effects of flood 2010 on human as well as animals. The bloated corpses of buffalos, cows, donkeys and goats can be seen at many places in flood hit areas. Many of the surviving animals are seen suffering from lameness, fever, muscle contractions or swelling of shoulder, chest, back, neck or throat, foot rot and more.
One wonders where the animals would stand on the scale of importance when so many human lives are at stake. The fact is that the survival of the livestock is crucial to the survival of human beings, particularly so in agrarian society like ours.
Livestock is vital for the Pakistan’s agricultural economy and fabric of rural society. Livestock makes up 52.2 percent of the agriculture value and 11.3 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product. The value of livestock is 6.1 percent more than the combined value of major and minor crops, according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. In addition to providing mutton and dairy products, Livestock is one of the major sources of raw material for different industrial sectors of the country including hides to leather sector, animal bones for preparation of crockery and animal blood for preparation of chicken feed to name just a few. Animals are also extensively used for transportation and cultivation.
As a consequence of the large scale extinction of livestock by the devastating floods this year (as per one estimate some 5 million animals were either killed or swept away by the rising tides in Sindh alone whereas another 5 million in other parts of the country), the industrial activities in the country are likely to suffer a major setback and they would have to rely on import of raw material.
Similarly, many who live in the flood prone rural areas rely on animal farming, large and small as per the capacity of the holdings, to make a living and support their families. Depletion of the livestock during the current floods in the country has deprived millions of people from their sources of revenue.
“My betal specie goat was all that I had. Goat was expected to deliver two lambs next month. I was planning to sell one of the lambs to raise money to repair the roof of my house that is leaking since last year and keep another for selling on the eve of Eid ul Azha next year. Selling milk would have been enough for me to live a comfortable life,” narrated Fateh Shahi, an old lady living in a mud and straw hut on the outskirts of village Mirkhan on the bank of Chenab. “I have lost my goat in the flood,” she added with tears in her eyes. Water had entered in Mirkhan during the month long floods that have destroyed homes and marooned people and animals.
Gulzar is a village shepherd. Personally, he does not own any animal. People of village Karyanwala give their goats to Gulzar everyday for grazing. Gulzar takes the herd out early morning and brings them back by sun set when owners collect their animals and keep them at home for night till Gulzar takes them out again next morning. This is a wonderful model of small scale animal farming common in rural areas. Gulzar gets the compensation for his work and people can keep their animals. This system allows everyone in the village to keep animals (mostly goats, cows and buffalos) for fresh milk and as a source of additional income.
“These animals are very important for us,” said, Gulzar Ahmed, while standing in the middle of his herd of goats that he had shifted from village Karyanwala on the Bank of Chenab to the safety on the bank of Rasul-Qadarabad Link Canal. Problem with goats is that they fall sick on wet ground what to talk of grazing. There are no veterinary doctors in our area and I have nowhere to graze and feed them. I am waiting when I will be able to go back to village and normal life.
Hundreds of thousands of cattle have drowned in the floods and the surviving animals are starving. Deaths due to drowning during the floods, deaths after the floods due to disease and hunger caused by loss of animal feeds has exacerbated the livestock related problems which are quite serious even under normal conditions. This loss of animals is expected to be higher after the ground data comes in. It is also feared that animal feed will not be easily accessible for at least six months, which could result in widespread starvation.
Why would anyone want to live in a place that is visibly exposed to floods every year?
UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction remarks, “Communities should have been kept away from flood-exposed river banks in Pakistan. If people had not settled on the river banks, definitely the disaster would have been less, because that is the main cause of the disaster.”
Some analysts have also attributed the current flood disaster to unregulated construction and development on river banks. They think that widespread build up and construction along the river banks and even on dried up riverbeds across the country had blocked the natural course of the rivers. Some others point out that fragility of natural environment in upstream areas of Indus river basin has exacerbated conditions of vulnerability. Pakistan has been left with only 4 percent forest and vegetative cover, in contrast to the required 25 percent, thereby experiencing an intense and uninterrupted discharge of water, especially during monsoon seasons. This coupled with increasing snowmelt in the Himalayan glaciers has intensified flood risks.
Given the local context, “it may never be possible to displace indigenous people from where they are living since generations, says Dr. Hamid Ghani Anjum. “What seems wise is that these areas may be made safer for them to live on,” he adds.
For ages, the Indus River has been a lifeline for the land we call home. The Indus has its source in Tibet. From there, it skirts China, heads into India then enters Pakistan south of the Karakoram Range before starting its long journey — some 1,976 miles — through the heart of the country into the Arabian Sea near Karachi. People and their animals have been happily living all along the banks of Indus and its tributaries since the Bronze Age, when the region was home to the thriving Indus Valley Civilization. Even now Indus Basin is called the breadbasket of Pakistan.
“There should be permanent protective embankments to check and regulate water in flood seasons,” says Dr. Anjum. Sadly, the empirical observations show that embankments, where they were present, did not stand in the face of current floods. “After the flood warning, the villagers had brought their animals on the protective band and at night the flood washed away the whole band along with the animals, thanks to the quality of construction,” tells Qasim Ali a volunteer who had visited flooded areas in Sindh during August.
This social segment living in the flood risk areas cannot be expected to make safe arrangements for themselves and their animals on priority. Need is to release the pressures upon them by providing sustainable rehabilitation and safer environment for future.
Related: Flood 2010
Labels: Economy of Pakistan, Flood 2010, In Print, Livestock, Nation
posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:11 PM,
At 4:21:00 PM,
Saqib Naveed said...
pics are really very worthy
At 5:10:00 PM,
As human lives these lives are also worthy to a balance environment. Most rural people live in livestock and it's a great loss to those people and to the country as it gives more unemployment after the floods. But in an episode like this the first interest is to save human lives and the animals are left to face the disaster..
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