Counting raindrops in Thar

Published: September 2, 2010

Children transporting water which they need to survive instead of being in school

Children transporting water which they need to survive instead of being in school A local checking for available water Rainwater slowly trickles down a window at a home in Karachi

When I was penning my thoughts to share with you all, water was pouring down from the clouds in Karachi. Rain drops were splashing on my window and with each drop that dripped I pictured water traveling down the Himalayas, through the streams and rivers, making its way to the ocean, changing into vapours, reaching the skies and then pouring outside my window. The beauty of the water cycle system is bewildering!

When this precious water floods our streets and finds its way to the drains, I feel we could do so much with this it only if we knew how to utilise it. The idea of rainwater harvesting has occupied my mind for some time and prompted me to learn more about it.

One day when I was talking to a friend, who works at a highly respected fertiliser company, he told me that his company has been harvesting rain water in the Thar Desert for slightly more than a year. This made me jump with excitement! I wanted to know all about the project.

Imagine that you live in a desert where it only rains just once in a year, your house does not have any water pipelines or link to canals, your only water source is a well that is three to four kilometres away. Both male and female members of your family need to travel for hours to fetch water. Your children will not go to schools and your principle bread winner will not be able to work because they spend half the day fetching water. The same cycle is repeated everyday through out the year.

It’s hard for me to imagine myself in such a situation. Sadly, the people living in the Thar Desert face this life every day. Wells are their only source of water and the water table is declining by 11 per cent each year. Health problems are increasing since most of the water available was saline.

Fortunately a concerned group with close links to the people of the Thar community contacted Engro Polymer and Chemical Limited (EPCL) – who produce geomembranes that are used to avoid water seepage in ponds and other water bodies.

Water conservation models were built for various villages, houses and schools. It fills my heart with joy to share with all of you that the water collected last year in June from the regular rains, lasted till it rained again this year. People are using rain water through out the year which is accessible within 15 minutes.

They are healthier and wealthier as the principle bread winners now have more time to devote to their jobs and have worked to improve their living standards. Children can go to schools. Moreover, local livestock looks well nourished as well. Now that they have water in the desert, they are even trying to grow their own crops.

Isn’t it heart warming to know that some people quietly did their work and changed the lives of thousands and are still working to help all the estimated 1.2 million people of the Thar desert.

The concept of rainwater harvesting has captivated me. I dream of a Pakistan where rainwater harvesting becomes a common practice. Our agricultural lands, deserts and even the urban centres could learn to use rainwater wisely.


Zahra Ali

A freelance writer, gardening teacher and environmentalist. She has been spreading the message of natural living through her blog 'Crops in Pots' since 2008

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.